NORMAN, Okla. — No charges will be filed in connection with a confrontation between a local hiker and a group that leased the Clear Bay area at Thunderbird State Park the district attorney said Monday.
An unidentfied group believed to be a local branch of the black supremacist wing of the Hebrew Israelite movement, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, paid the Oklahoma Department of Tourism $9,040 to lease Turkey Pass, Critter Alley and Clear Bay Point campgrounds at Lake Thunderbird Sept. 15 through Sept. 20. The large area included in the lease limited public access to trail heads and other amenities traditionally popular with area hikers.
Facebook chatter and local media reports indicate the group had unfriendly encounters with several locals, including an incident on Sept. 20 involving Norman resident Ben Fenwick who called 911 and waited over 45 minutes for a park ranger to arrive.
Fenwick said he was held against his will and threatened with a bow and arrow.
“When I called 911, I learned they have no law enforcement out there,” Fenwick said. “I think it took as long as 20 minutes for the Cleveland County Sheriff [Deputies] to get out there, and when they arrived, they told me the nearest ranger was 45 minutes away.”
The deputies remained on the scene but said they did not have jurisdiction.
Fenwick said he had driven to the lake to walk as is his habit.
“I had driven up to where the boat ramp was and saw there were a lot of people camped there. There were scads of people and a lot of trash out there. All of the dumpsters were overflowing,” he said.
Fenwick decided “to go over to Clear Bay” and hike there, hoping it would be less crowded.
Whe he arrived he saw a plastic divider in the road but no sign. As he approached the divider, a man came walking out and told him the entire area was leased and that Fenwick could not enter. The area includes public hiking trails which can be accessed from other parts of the lake, so Fenwick didn’t believe the access was legally limited. The man was wearing a T-shirt that said either “12 Tribes” or “12 Nations,” Fenwick said.
“I thought the guy was weird,” Fenwick said. “He didn’t have an official badge or anything.”
Fenwick said he felt uncomfortable and drove past the plastic barrier down to Clear Bay Point to get away from the man. There were a lot of people in that area, so he decided he would skip his walk and go home.
Fenwick said as he was leaving, a man in a dark pickup came “barreling at him.” Another man drew a bow and arrow and pointed it at him. At that point, Fenwick tried to drive out, but they had shut the gates.
“They held me there and didn’t let me leave, and that’s when I called 911,” Fenwick said. He stayed on the phone with the 911 operator until the sheriff’s deputies arrived. She told him the 12 Tribes group had not called 911.
“Those guys had blocked my access to leave the lake and were holding me,” Fenwick said. “They didn’t call 911, so what were they going to do?”
Fenwick learned there was no ranger on staff at the lake.
“You’ve got to wonder, what are [the park rangers] thinking?” Fenwick said. “And then when they did arrive, it’s not like they talked to me — I’m the one who called 911. They talked to them first.”
The man from the gate told the ranger that Fenwick had tried to run him over with his Prius. Fenwick said he went around the barriar and the man but never drove his car in the direction of the man.
Fenwick said the ranger turned in a complaint from the group alleging “assault with a dangerous weapon,” for Fenwick driving his car in that direction. The ranger told Fenwick he was filing the report because it was the “safest thing to do.” The name of the alleged victim was not released by the state.
A kidnapping complaint was filed against Thirkeil Lloyd Patterson Jr., of Oklahoma City, for holding Fenwick against his will.
No charges are being filed on either complaint.
“We looked at it. There supposedly was a person there with a bow and arrow, but no one knows who he is,” District Attorney Greg Mashburn said.
Mashburn said there’s no real evidence supporting either complaint, so no charges will be filed.
“I guess it’s just my word against theirs,” Fenwick said, “But the only evidence we have is that they held me there, which is kidnapping.”
Posts on social media indicate there have been other incidents involving the group.
• One post being shared sounds similar to Fenwick’s story: “My dad was stopped by these people at lake thunderbird. He called 911 and nobody even showed up to help him. They blocked in his truck with his girlfriend and a tiny fuzzy dog in the truck with him.
“He even got out and spoke to them, told them they couldn’t restrict a public area like that. They told him they’d do whatever they wanted and told him to leave the lake. My dad is 60 years old and his girlfriend in her 50s, she was so shook up. She was scared for days that they had followed them home.
Like she flipped out, loaded every gun in the house before she could sleep that night. She was scared to death. She actually has a license to carry but had left her carry purse and gun at home that evening. She now carries everywhere they go, she’s still scared of those people.”
• And another by Shawdra Foutch: “We had almost the same experience ... we also went home and loaded all weapons because we don’t live far from the lake. It was a horrible time around there for days.”
The Oklahoma Tourism park use permit obtained via an open records request is highly redacted and does not indicate the name of the group or person leasing the facility, the event or the number of people expected to attend.
Under “Will added security or traffic control be needed?” the box is marked, “No.”
Fenwick said he was badly shaken by the incident and is now hesitant to return to the lake where he has always loved to take long walks and enjoy the natural beauty.
Joy Hampton writes for The Norman Transcript.