By Lee Williams
Oklahoma’s Pushmataha County Sheriff’s Office has opened an investigation into the ATF for their recent SWAT raid of one of their county’s most respected residents, Russell Fincher, PCSO Undersheriff Dustin Bray said Tuesday.
No one at the ATF warned the Sheriff’s Office in advance that highly armed federal agents would be conducting the SWAT raid, the Undersheriff said.
We weren’t apprised of anything,” Bray said. “We are a Second Amendment County and we are going to protect our citizens here. We are not going to enforce any gun law or rule that violates the constitution.”
Bray did not yet know whether the investigation would yield criminal charges against ATF agents, adding, “That’s a good one for the Attorney General. The thing I’m looking at are more constitutional issues than criminal, such as civil rights violations.”
Bray said his agency began a “deep dive” into ATF’s conduct, but this investigation was put on hold because of an unrelated double-homicide in the county followed by two officer-involved shootings. The PCSO has around a dozen deputies who are responsible for patrolling a county of more than 1,400 square miles.
Undersheriff Bray, a 21-year law enforcement veteran who has been at PCSO since 2018, was most concerned about ATF’s apparent disregard for standard deconfliction protocols, which are commonplace among state, county and local law enforcement agencies.
The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies defines confliction as “the process of determining when law enforcement personnel are conducting an event in close proximity to one another at the same time. Events include law enforcement actions such as raids, undercover operations, surveillance, or executing search warrants.”
In other words, deconfliction prevents two groups of cops from showing up at the same location at the same time and pointing guns at each other.
“They (ATF) didn’t do any deconfliction with Pushmataha County,” Bray said. “We had no idea they were coming. We didn’t hear anything about it until weeks had passed. Nothing ever got reported to us. I’m not a fan of that. The Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer of the county.”
ATF Special Agent Theodore Mongell, who led the SWAT raid at Fincher’s home, was unwilling to talk about deconfliction or the Sheriff’s Office’s ongoing investigation.
“Sir, per the last conversation we had, I can’t give any comment at this time,” Mongell said Wednesday. “This is a confidential investigation – a criminal investigation. I will forward your information to my supervisors for comment.”
No one from ATF’s Oklahoma City Field office or ATF’s Tulsa Satellite Office returned the call.
A story published Tuesday revealed that Oklahoma state Rep. Justin “JJ” Humphrey sent a letter to Oklahoma’s Governor, Attorney General and other law enforcement officials demanding an investigation into the ATF raid of Fincher’s home. Fincher is one of Humphrey’s constituents, a parttime gun dealer, a high school history teacher and a Baptist pastor.
According to a press release, Humphrey said he was contacted by Fincher after a dozen ATF SWAT team members bearing “automatic weapons” raided Fincher’s home, handcuffed him on his porch in front of his 13-year-old son and coerced and threatened him into relinquishing his Federal Firearm License.
“If this report is true, and I have every reason to believe it is, then it would appear the ATF’s actions constitute a gross misuse and abuse of their federal police powers,” Humphrey said in the press release.
Fincher, Humphrey wrote in the letter, “is a distinguished figure in our community, serving both as pastor and schoolteacher in the small community of Clayton, Oklahoma. He is known as a respected member of the community, and I have every reason to believe his account. If proven true, the actions of the ATF agents could be seen as a severe misuse and abuse of their federal law enforcement authority.”
Communications staff for Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond did not immediately return calls or emails seeking their comments for this story.
A GiveSendGo account has been created to help with Fincher’s legal fees.
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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.