Members of area law enforcement agencies converged on Byng Friday night in response to a fatal shooting, initially believing their suspect was still in the area — armed and attempting to flee on foot.
Pontotoc County Sheriff John Christian coordinated a large-scale response by the Sheriff’s Office, Ada police, Chickasaw Nation Lighthorse Police, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the District 22 Drugs and Violent Crimes Task Force. Authorities quickly secured an area near South Main Street/Old Highway 99 and High School Boulevard in Byng, then began a methodical door-to-door search for Zachary Perkins, 20, of Ada.
Christian said Central Dispatch received a call from Perkins’ mother shortly after 8 p.m., telling dispatchers her son had called her and told her not to come home because someone had been shot. Upon her arrival at the residence, the caller told dispatchers, she found a body lying on the couch and Perkins was gone.
Acting on that information, authorities sent out the following Hyper-Reach notice around 8:28 p.m. to area residents, informing them of the developing situation:
“There is an armed subject on the loose in the Byng area. No description right now. Please be vigilant and report anything suspicious or unusual to the Sheriff or Central Dispatch.”
Agency members worked together to clear and secure homes, escort pedestrians to safe locations and secure students and members of the public who were attending a play at Byng High School as the incident unfolded.
Authorities continued to search for Perkins, temporarily unaware that he had already left the area.
Unbeknownst to authorities in Pontotoc County, Christian said, Perkins called someone to come pick him up before his mother arrived home.
Christian said a female whose name has not yet been released picked Perkins up in Byng and drove him to a residence in Oklahoma City with a small child in tow. The three sought shelter at the residence.
“The (occupant of the home) got on social media and looked up the story and saw that we were looking for him for a shooting and told them … you can’t stay here,” Christian said Saturday by phone. “That (individual) called Oklahoma City PD and reported him. They immediately sent officers to start looking for him.”
With the assistance of District 22 Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force Agent Heath Miller, Pontotoc County authorities were able to guide Oklahoma City police officers to Perkins’ location, where he was detained after a brief foot pursuit. The vehicle Perkins was in was impounded as evidence, according to Christian.
Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents interviewed Perkins in Oklahoma City, then released him pending the outcome of the investigation.
“(Perkins is) claiming self-defense,” Christian said. “And he said there are witnesses who saw what happened.”
Christian said the investigation into the shooting and the events that followed will continue until authorities understand exactly what happened.
“We will not be pursuing any charges on anyone until the investigation is complete,” Christian Said. “OSBI and my deputies are still interviewing witnesses. Justice is best served when all the facts are obtained. The old adage still applies — innocent until proven guilty. We have to know all the facts, know what truly happened.”
Christian said the victim’s name is being withheld until a positive identification has been made by the Office of the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner.
‘The well-oiled machine’
Christian said the agencies involved in Friday night’s search in Byng functioned flawlessly together, singling out a number of agencies for their assistance.
“We had a great response,” Christian said. “We had four or five OHP units out there, Ada PD responded to the initial call and they took calls for us while we were handling this — Lighthorse had units there, and they were indispensable in this. With reserves, I had around 20 deputies there to assist.”
The mixed-use nature of the area being searched provided a number of challenges for authorities responding to the scene.
“We had stuff going on at the school and we had deputies and Lighthorse up there,” Christian said. “Byng Fire Department came out with their FLIR (Forward-Looking Infrared Radar) units to help us search. We put vests on a couple of firefighters who helped with the search and paired them and their FLIR devices up with deputies. We went door to door to make sure everyone was safe, to make sure he wasn’t hold up in somebody’s house.”
Christian said he appreciated the public’s response to their presence.
“We had no issues with people giving us any grief — everyone was very cooperative with our efforts to protect them and keep them safe,” he said. “I’m very proud of everybody — the well-oiled machine worked perfectly.
“The whole thing worked like it’s supposed.”
Contact Carl Lewis at 580-310-7520, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.