Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed In McCurtain County, OK


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

Bobby Barrick, 45, of Tulsa County, Oklahoma, died in police custody in March 2022 following his arrest which his family claims was due to his declining mental health. In April 2023, the body camera footage of Barrick’s arrest was released to the public.

The body camera footage shows Barrick being forced onto the ground while handcuffed, before being pinned down by multiple officers and being shot with a stun gun. The deputies on sight then turned off their body cameras and claim nothing else was done to Barrick while he was in police custody.

EMTs were called to the scene as Barrick suffered from a seizure, which the coroner’s report states was due to the stun gun. He was eventually brought to the McCurtain County Hospital where he died five days later. Barrick’s wife, Barbara Barrick, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office claiming they used excessive force during the arrest, which resulted in the death of her husband.

The lawsuit alleges that the McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office “has a history of permitting its personnel to engage in unnecessary, unreasonable and excessive force on arrestees who pose no threat.”

On April 20, Barrick held a press conference outside the Sheriff’s Office with her attorney, Mitchell Garrett, where she thanked local news reporters for their “persistence and bravery,” as they attempted to uncover more details surrounding her husband’s arrest and subsequent death.

This press conference was held in response to leaked audio recordings published by the McCurtain Gazette News, which revealed County Commissioner Mark Jennings, Sheriff Kevin Clardy, and unidentified McCurtain deputies allegedly discussing hiring hitmen to go after journalists who reported on Barrick’s death.

“Unfortunately, all of our attorneys are telling us we are supposed to stay quiet,” McCurtain Undersheriff Mike Manning told The Associated Press in an interview following the leaked audio recordings. “I’d love for everybody to hear both sides of the story.”

The recorded comments were made on March 6 and were captured by a McCurtain Gazette News publisher, Bruce Willingham.

Willingham stated that he had left a recorder inside the room after a county commissioner’s meeting because he suspected that Jennings, Clardy and the deputies were continuing county business after the meeting ended, which would violate Oklahoma’s Open Meeting Act. Willingham said he believed the officials were upset by “stories we’ve run that cast the Sheriff’s Office in an unfavorable light,” including but not limited to the coverage of Bobby Barrick’s death.

In a statement released on the sheriff’s office’s Facebook page, officials did not address the recorded conversation and only claimed the recording was illegally obtained. Willingham said he spoke with his attorneys on multiple occasions, and was assured he was not legally in the wrong