He became a notorious chapter
in Oklahoma City Police Department history.
This is the story of those
who helped bring him to justice.
4 a.m. | Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Oklahoma City Police Detective Kim Davis groans as she wakes to her cellphone ringing.
After more than 27 years as a cop, she’s grown used to such middle-of-the-night summonses. But tonight, filling in for her partner, she’d hoped to avoid catching any calls.
She grabs her phone off the bedside table and slips into the kitchen trying not to wake her husband, Cecil, a fellow officer, who’d just gotten home from his shift about an hour before.
A lieutenant tells Davis a woman is claiming that she’s been sexually assaulted by a police officer.
Davis, 49, scribbles a few details on a notepad she keeps on the kitchen counter just for calls like this. She tells the lieutenant she’ll meet the victim at Southwest Medical Center where the woman can be examined.
Davis takes a quick shower to wake up then dresses in typical summer work attire — jeans, tennis shoes and a tan polo shirt with an Oklahoma City Police Sex Crimes unit logo.
She takes a quick look in the mirror and is thankful once again for her short hairstyle that only needs a quick brush to look presentable. She notices the gray is peeking through the brown and makes a mental note that she needs to get it colored again soon. She throws on a blue windbreaker, slips the lanyard holding her police badge around her neck and clips the holster carrying her 9 mm Smith and Wesson to her belt.
Before she heads out the door, she wakes Cecil with a hand on his shoulder to let him know she’s leaving, a routine they’ve developed during their 17-year marriage. As a member of the department’s tactical team, he’s had plenty of his own late-night call outs.
He mumbles an OK, tells her to be careful and that he loves her.
From experience, Davis knows this will probably come to nothing. Almost once a month it seems the department gets a complaint like this against an officer, almost always involving a person upset over getting arrested.
Davis knows that most of the allegations prove false. Almost always, it’s an angry suspect looking to get out of jail or get back at what they perceive as an overly aggressive cop.
Of the dozen or so cases she’d investigated over the years, none had resulted in charges being filed.
She knows the truth typically works itself out pretty quickly, usually as soon as she interviews the alleged victim. Typically, liars can’t keep their story straight.
Davis arrives at the hospital about 5 a.m. There, she’s met by another lieutenant who tells Davis that the victim is a 57-year-old black woman who claims she was stopped by a police officer about three hours earlier on NE 50 Street near Lincoln Boulevard in northeast Oklahoma City.
Little older than normal, Davis thinks.
What was she arrested for? Davis asks.
She wasn’t, the lieutenant responds.
Did she get a ticket or anything? Davis asks.
Nope, comes the reply.
She wasn’t getting out of a ticket. She wasn’t getting out of an arrest. No obvious motive.
Strange, Davis thinks.
Down a hallway, Davis knocks before entering a small examination room reserved for sexual assault victims.
The woman is alone, sitting up in a hospital bed quietly crying. She’s wearing jeans, a white, collarless blouse and tennis shoes. The woman wipes her eyes and straightens up.
To Davis, she looks like somebody’s grandmother.
Davis introduces herself, tells the woman she’s a sex crimes detective, that she’ll be investigating her claims and that she wants to hear her story.
Between sobs, the woman, Jannie Ligons, recounts her night.
She tells Davis how she’d been playing cards and dominoes at a friend’s house and was on her way home when she saw a police car pull up next to her red Pontiac Grand Am then fall back and pull in behind her. When the officer flashed his emergency lights, Ligons said she quickly pulled over. Ligons tells Davis she’d smoked a little marijuana earlier that night but hadn’t been drinking.
Ligons details how the officer told her she’d been swerving and ordered her out of her car. She said he’d asked her to walk back to his car, told her she looked like she’d been drinking and asked whether she had any alcohol in the car. He told her he’d take her to jail if she lied. She told him she didn’t.
He patted her down, ordered her to sit in his backseat and searched her car, she tells Davis.
Ligons tells Davis the assault began a few minutes later when the officer returned to his patrol car. First, Ligons says, he ordered her to lift her shirt and bra then shined a flashlight on her exposed breasts. Next, he ordered her to lower her jeans. At first, she says, she thought he was kidding. Then, fear set in.
Through tears, Ligons tells Davis she begged the officer, saying, “You’re not supposed to do this.”
Eventually, he forced her to perform oral sex, she says, at one point telling her to hurry up, that he’d just gotten off work and was tired.
She tells Davis how she spent much of the assault staring at the officer’s holstered sidearm and avoiding looking at his name badge. She says she feared for her life. No way she thought an officer would be that bold and let his victim live to talk, she tells Davis. She’d even asked the officer at one point if he was going to kill her, Ligons says.
She describes her attacker as white, between 35 and 45 years old, 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-9 inches tall, with a thick build and blond hair.
Right away, Davis remembers a similar case from a few weeks before where a woman claimed she’d been assaulted by a muscular officer. Another detective in the sex crimes unit, Rocky Gregory, had investigated the allegation, but Davis wasn’t sure what had come of it. She makes a mental note to follow up with Gregory when she gets to the office.
Davis knows she needs to keep an open mind. Look for physical evidence. Determine indisputable facts. Build a solid case. She’s a long way from proving anything, but right away she senses this incident is different from her previous cases involving officers accused of sexual misconduct. The victim doesn’t appear drunk or high. She’s not combative. She clearly doesn’t look like a prostitute or serious drug abuser, often the type of women who file complaints against officers. Instead, she’s a part-time day care worker and the mother of four grown children.
The woman also appears to be in shock.
Davis knows that’s not unusual for a rape victim, but it is for someone making a bogus charge.
And, Davis thinks, this woman looks scared to death, still trembling hours after the attack. Davis believes this woman when she says she thought she was going to die.
It’s just a feeling Davis has, but this time, this time she thinks the woman might be telling the truth.
Davis explains to Ligons how the investigation will work, that she’ll need to search her Grand Am and talk to the daughter who'd brought her to the hospital.
Davis Tells Ligons she’ll call when she knows something. She promises the only thing she can about the case — to do her best.
Davis leaves the hospital around 5:30 a.m. and heads north to meet up with her lieutenant, Tim Muzny, who already is following a possible lead.
Often, the first step in a police investigation is to see whether the crime may have been caught on camera. Detectives know video evidence often is golden in court. Juries believe that pictures don’t lie.
Sure enough, a police officer investigating the incident had noticed that a building just north of the scene of the alleged attack at NE 50 and Lincoln had several security cameras.
The security guard at the Old Surety Life building, an off-duty Oklahoma City police sergeant, had been happy to cooperate.
Sitting in the guard’s office, Lt. Muzny skims through footage recorded around the time of the alleged attack and finds what he's looking for.
At one point, as the video rolls, a police car can be seen at the top edge of the frame with its emergency lights flashing. A time stamp reads 2:02 a.m. The black-and-white video is grainy, taken from several hundred feet away from a camera mounted three stories up and hard to make out with the emergency lights washing out the image. The police car appears to be all black but the video quality is too poor to detect any movement, let alone make out any faces. The stop lasts about 15 minutes.
Detectives will send the video to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to see if it can be enhanced. But if nothing else, they know a traffic stop took place at the time and place the victim alleged. It’s a good piece of evidence.
After meeting up with Muzny, Davis and another officer spend the next several hours visiting more than a half-dozen other businesses in the area looking for more video they hope will help them figure out which direction the officer might have been coming from before the alleged assault and which way he went after.
Driving back to headquarters later that morning, Davis follows up on her second solid lead. She knows that all of Oklahoma City’s patrol cars are equipped with a system that allows the department to track their movement.
Davis calls Lt. Muzny, and asks him to search the vehicle logs to determine which officer might have been in the area at the time of the alleged assault. From the description Ligons provided, that the car was solid black with the word “Police” written on it in big white letters, Davis believes the officer might have been driving one of the department’s newer all-black Ford Interceptor patrol cars. Davis knows only a few officers drive them.
Davis is told that based on vehicle locators, nobody was in the area at that time.
But there is something. One Springlake Division officer who had been patrolling the northeast part of the city earlier that night had turned his computer system off shortly before his shift ended at 2 a.m., a violation of department policy.
Who, she asks?
Officer Daniel Holtzclaw.
The name means nothing to Davis.
What kind of a car was he driving, she asks?
One of the new ones.
Midmorning | Wednesday, June 18, 2014
At Oklahoma City police headquarters, the department is scrambling over word that one of their young officers may have sexually assaulted a woman during a traffic stop earlier that morning. The chain of command all the way up to the chief is demanding answers.
Already, record clerks are pulling all the files they can find on the accused officer, a three-year veteran named Daniel Holtzclaw.
About 10 a.m., Kim Davis, the lead detective on the case, arrives downtown. She’s been at the hospital interviewing the victim and canvassing the scene of the alleged assault near NE 50 and Lincoln Boulevard, helping gather security camera footage she hopes might have captured the incident.
She needs to find Rocky Gregory, another veteran sex crimes detective. She’d remembered that several weeks before he’d investigated a similar allegation involving an officer and wondered whether the cases might be linked.
In that case, a known prostitute said she’d been walking near downtown when an officer picked her up, assaulted her in the back of his car, then let her go. She’d described her attacker as muscular. When Gregory later tried to check a department locator system that tracks patrol car movements to see whether an officer had been in the area, he'd come up empty. With an uncooperative victim and no other solid evidence, the case went nowhere.
At headquarters, Davis is immediately called into a staff meeting. In the meeting are Gregory, the head of the sex crimes unit, Lt. Tim Muzny, and a few others, including a deputy chief.
Already, the department has compiled the names of all the officers who worked second shift in the area of the city where the alleged assault occurred and who drive the department’s newer all-black vehicles. By checking vehicle locator logs they’ve been able to eliminate all officers from being in the area except one — Holtzclaw. He had logged off his computer while driving home after his shift, a violation of department policy.
Sitting in the meeting, listening to the evidence, Davis and Gregory both begin to wonder the same thing. Similar suspect description. Same MO. Is it possible these two incidents are related? Is it possible they have a predator in the ranks? Davis knows from experience that men involved in these kind of sex crimes usually don’t stop until they’re caught or dead. Is it possible there might be even more victims?
The meeting participants agree it’s time to find and interview Holtzclaw and impound and search his police cruiser. The easiest way to do that, they decide, is to wait and pick him up when he reports for duty later that day.
After the meeting, Muzny pulls Davis aside. He tells her the eyes of the department are on her. In a department already struggling with relations in the minority community, they know how explosive something like this could be.
Davis wants to see whether Holtzclaw left any evidence in the victim’s car. She drives to the home of the victim’s daughter-in-law, where the woman, Jannie Ligons, is staying. She has Ligons sign a waiver allowing the search to be conducted. She says she wants to check Ligons' phone as well.
Ligons tells Davis her car is in a parking lot at the Chesapeake Energy Corp. Her boyfriend had driven it to work.
At Chesapeake, Davis watches for more than an hour as crime lab technicians pore over the red Pontiac Grand Am, taking photographs and searching for fingerprints, DNA, hair, semen, any trace of evidence.
Davis tell them where to search and what to look for. The technicians know the science, but she knows the story.
Once they finish, Davis heads back to headquarters.
Mid-afternoon, Gregory calls the captain of the Springlake Division where Holtzclaw works second shift — 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Gregory tells the captain he needs to visit with Holtzclaw about a traffic stop he’d made the night before and that the officer has been accused of sexual assault.
The Springlake Division, headquartered at NE 40 and Prospect Avenue, sprawls over 130 square miles and includes the northeast quadrant of the city, including some of the state’s poorest neighborhoods, many residents are minorities.
Davis and Gregory make the 15-minute drive from headquarters to Springlake together. They know they want to keep it cordial with Holtzclaw until they can get him back downtown.
Gregory also knows how cases like this can divide a department.
In 2011, he’d been involved in a case where a popular police officer who served as a foster parent was convicted of sexually assaulting four teenage boys under his care. The officer received a two-year sentence.
Gregory remembers the department being a tinderbox after that case, some officers upset that one of their own would do something so despicable and others upset that the cop wasn't shown more leniency. He remembered the tension among some officers lasted for more than a year.
He hopes this case doesn’t cause a similar division in the department.
At the Springlake Division, the detectives try to be discreet. They wait for Holtzclaw in a major’s office just off the lineup room where officers gather for their preshift briefings.
A visit from sex crimes investigators isn’t unusual. Detectives often will stop by the division to discuss cases with officers or brief units about ongoing investigations. But the detectives are sure rumors already are flying that this visit is different and that they’re there to talk to Holtzclaw.
Davis and Gregory know it will be important to make Holtzclaw feel comfortable, to keep him from clamming up. They want him to think that they’re there to help him clear things up, not to accuse him.
While they wait, the detectives chat with a captain about the description the victim gave of her attacker, including that he had blond hair. Holtzclaw’s hair, they note, is dark.
The captain tells the detectives that everyone’s hair looks blond in the glare from the LED emergency lights on police cars.
When Holtzclaw enters the major’s office both detectives get to their feet. At 6 foot 1 and 240 pounds, Holtzclaw, 27, a former college football player who dreamed of playing professionally, looms over the two detectives. Muscles bulge underneath his tight uniform shirt.
The detectives introduce themselves, tell Holtzclaw they want to talk about some allegations made against him.
Holtzclaw listens. He acknowledges making a late-night stop after getting off his shift that he didn’t call in to dispatchers.
They tell him they need an updated photograph. They’ll use it for a lineup. A crime scene technician snaps the picture. The detectives then ask Holtzclaw whether he wants to come to headquarters to talk.
Holtzclaw agrees. He’s almost too composed, Davis thinks. You think he’d be more defensive. Or emphatic in his denials.
When leaving, the detectives want to avoid a scene that might embarrass Holtzclaw. They also don’t want to do anything that might further alarm him or keep him from talking. They don’t put him in handcuffs. Instead, the three leave the major’s office and walk casually through the station together and out the front doors. Another detective drives Holtzclaw’s cruiser to the department’s vehicle processing facility to be searched.
The sky is overcast and the temperature hovers near 90 degrees.
On the drive downtown. Gregory and Holtzclaw sit up front, Davis in the back. Davis keeps a close eye on Holtzclaw, who is still armed with his service weapon.
Along the way, Gregory tries to build a rapport. They talk about Holtzclaw’s football playing days at Eastern Michigan University, his time working in the department’s gang unit, University of Oklahoma football and Thunder basketball.
They talk about anything except why they’re heading downtown. The detectives don’t want to interrogate him yet. They can’t, really. They haven’t read him his Miranda rights. The last thing they want is for him to get off on some technicality because they made a mistake.
Once at headquarters, officers ask Holtzclaw for his sidearm.
The two detectives escort him to their third-floor office and into a cramped room with barely enough space for a small wooden table and an office chair wedged into a corner. The interrogation room.
In a friendly tone and offering no hint of the difficult questions to come, Gregory begins.
“Welcome to our domain.”
4:24 p.m. | Wednesday, June 18, 2014
In a tiny interrogation room, Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw wedges his 6-foot-1, 240-pound frame between a wall and a small desk and into the chair usually reserved for suspects. He’s still in his police uniform.
Left alone for a minute, Holtzclaw, 27, rests his hands in his lap and begins to look around the all-white room, glancing at each wall and the ceiling before staring up for a few seconds into a wall-mounted video camera.
Down the hall, several of the department’s command staff stand around a video monitor staring back.
Early that morning, a 57-year-old woman had alleged she’d been driving home from a friend's house when she'd been pulled over in northeast Oklahoma City by a cop who sexually assaulted her.
A quick check found that Holtzclaw, a three-year veteran who worked the area where the woman said the assault occurred, had turned off a tracking system in his patrol car that prevented the department from monitoring his movements. Detectives also had gathered video from a nearby business that appeared to prove that a traffic stop had taken place at the time and place the victim said. Holtzclaw, a former college football player, also fit the description the victim gave of her attacker — large and muscular.
Sex crimes detectives also quickly recognized the allegations were similar to a case from several weeks before in which a woman had accused an officer of sexually assaulting her in his patrol vehicle.
When two detectives, Kim Davis and Rocky Gregory, went to the Springlake Division station at about 3:30 p.m. to meet with Holtzclaw, he’d acknowledged making a stop, but denied any wrongdoing. Now they’d brought him downtown to police headquarters to continue their questioning.
Davis, the lead detective on the case, rolls an office chair into the interrogation room. Back surgery for an old college softball injury makes it difficult for the Oklahoma City native to sit for long periods.
Usually, Davis likes to start an interview by trying to connect with the other person, telling a little about herself, hoping to put the other person at ease.
She’ll explain how an investigation works, answer any questions, learn a little about the person’s background.
“I know you are an officer and I know you’ve seen these a thousand times and read them yourself,’’ she says, holding a stack of forms detailing Holtzclaw’s Miranda rights and authorizing the search of his car, home, phone and computer. “You can still ask me any questions if you have one. Don’t be embarrassed about that.”
Holtzclaw tells her he’s already embarrassed, that rumors might be spreading among his fellow officers that he’s done something wrong.
Davis acknowledges the rumors.
“Let’s get them off of you and get them on to somebody else and get this over with,’’ she tells him.
“You have the right to remain silent … ,” she begins.
Holtzclaw agrees to talk without an attorney present. Davis isn’t surprised. She knows that most people assume that if they ask for an attorney, investigators automatically will think they’re guilty or have something to hide. She also knows it’s a big mistake suspects make.
Davis starts by asking Holtzclaw about the 2 a.m. traffic stop.
Holtzclaw details for the detectives how he was on his way home after a 12-hour shift when he saw a car weaving. He pulled the driver over, searched the car and the driver and placed the woman in his squad car before letting her go with a verbal warning, he tells them.
Holtzclaw describes the woman as cooperative, but nervous and upset, at one point even crying. He says he tried to calm her. Fifteen minutes, a warning, and he was on his way, he tells them.
Do you make traffic stops normally after work? Was she drunk? Was she acting funny? Did you search her? Did your hands go on her?
Davis seeks to pin down Holtzclaw’s version of events. The detectives will check to see if his story changes over time, to see if they can later catch him in a lie.
“Was there anything? An accidental touch? Anything?” Davis asks.
No, Holtzclaw tells her.
Through it all, Holtzclaw remains calm, almost stoic, never raising his voice and answering every question in an almost flat-monotone.
The steady questioning goes on for more than 20 minutes, before Davis pauses and turns to Gregory, who’s remained mostly silent.
“Think of anything?” she asks her partner.
Gregory asks to take DNA swabs from the inside of Holtzclaw’s cheek. The officer complies.
Now, the detectives begin to press him.
“Well Daniel, ... we’re kind of bringing you in here to see how truthful you are,” Gregory says.
“You need to kind of think of a few different things here.”
“OK,” Holtzclaw responds.
Gregory tells Holtzclaw that police have recovered “a lot” of video from the area where the assault occurred and that the victim had undergone a rape examination.
There’s a reason we wanted your DNA, the detective tells him.
"You sure there’s nothing you want to … ,”
“Nothing,” Holtzclaw responds.
Gregory asks Holtzclaw whether he wants to see the video, thinking he might be able to bluff the officer into believing it shows more than it does.
In reality, the video is grainy, taken from several hundred feet away and shows very little detail.
Appearing unfazed, Holtzclaw says he would like to see the video and continues to deny doing anything improper.
The detectives again remind him they also recovered DNA evidence.
“Here’s the deal,” Davis says, putting down her pen and leaning across the desk toward Holtzclaw. “ ... if ... the DNA comes back and says, ‘he did it,’ then we have a huge problem.”
“We’re here to give you the chance to fall on the sword,’ Davis offers.
“We don’t want a huge problem.”
Before Holtzclaw can respond, the detectives try another strategy, appearing to minimize what Holtzclaw has allegedly done and downplaying the potential consequences. Doing so, they hope, might prompt him to admit wrongdoing.
“I don’t want to see anybody go down for something that there was no force,’’ Gregory says, telling Holtzclaw there’s a huge difference between a forcible rape and a “girl who wants it.”
Now Davis chimes in, offering Holtzclaw another seeming out, telling him they know officers sometimes accept sexual favors from women seeking to avoid arrest.
“If that was a get-out-of-jail-free card, that happens and we know that happens, but we gotta know that,” Davis says. "We gotta know that versus, ‘he made me, I didn’t want to ... ’ ”
Through it all, Holtzclaw remains calm, almost eerily so, the detectives think.
He never raises his voice. He is agreeable and respectful.
“I’m sticking with my story,’’ he says at one point.
Now Gregory, brings up the earlier sexual assault they think Holtzclaw may have been involved in.
In that case, a few weeks earlier, another woman claimed she’d been picked up by an officer who offered to give her a ride to the City Union Mission, but instead drove to a secluded spot and sexually assaulted her.
“The other girl ... is kinda making the same allegation and that that’s weird,” Davis tells Holtzclaw.
“It doesn’t look good.” Holtzclaw agrees.
“What do you think about all this?” Gregory asks at one point.
“My head’s out here,” the officer says, holding his arms out.
He tells them he wants to take a polygraph test, that he wants this over with. He tells them he’s embarrassed they’d gone to his station, that he’s heard of other cops that have gone through this. He tells them he doesn’t want this to be his reputation.
“I’m a good officer. That’s not me. That’s not me.”
Now, the questions become even more personal.
Are you circumcised? Identifying marks? On steroids? When did you last shower? When did you last have sex? How often?
“Have you ever been accused of something like this before?’’ Gregory asks.
After 45 minutes, Davis pauses and looks at Gregory.
“Let’s step out,’’ Gregory says.
Alone again, Holtzclaw sits almost motionless, hands folded in his lap.
In the hallway, Davis and Gregory huddle.
They agree no home runs on their part. No big stumbles by Holtzclaw. Still, both detectives come away thinking there’s something to the allegations. An off-duty traffic stop, not running a records check with dispatch, the assault happening in a back seat. The description of the officer as muscular.
Too much smoke not to be fire, Gregory thinks.
The detectives wait before returning to the interrogation room. They want to give Holtzclaw a little time to think. Time to wonder what they might be up to. What they might ask next. They want him scattered, to make it challenging for him to keep his story straight.
Davis knew interrogating a cop would be different, knew he’d know all her tactics. Holtzclaw never seemed to blink, never lost his composure, his voice never found that new octave that she’s used to hearing from people accused of a crime. He’s like interviewing a robot, she thinks.
He's a sociopath, Gregory tells Davis, adding he thinks Holtzclaw could probably pass a polygraph.
They watch Holtzclaw on a monitor, ask some of their fellow detectives who’ve been watching whether they’ve noticed anything or have any suggestions.
Holtzclaw’s been alone about 10 minutes. The two two detectives are ready to take another run at him.
Back in the interrogation room, Davis, once again, asks Holtzclaw to go through all the details.
At one point, she tells him that crime scene technicians are processing his car as they speak.
She tells him that when they’d stepped out they were told pubic hairs had been found in the vehicle, a lie. In fact, technicians were just beginning to process the car, searching it for DNA and fingerprint evidence.
“Are those … going to be yours?’’ Davis asks Holtzclaw.
“No. No,’’ he says.
“Are you worried about it?” Davis asks after a long pause.
“This whole situation I’m worried about,” Holtzclaw says. “I’ve never been here, never been questioned, especially in a room like this.”
An hour and 20 minutes in, the detectives step out for a second time, again comparing notes and getting suggestions about what to ask next.
Holtzclaw sits, hands folded in his lap.
Ten minutes later, the detectives are back.
Gregory shows Holtzclaw a picture of the woman who claimed she’d been picked up and assaulted by a police officer several weeks before. Gregory asks Holtzclaw whether he recognizes her.Holtzclaw says he doesn’t and that he never goes downtown where the woman said she was assaulted.
“She described you to a T,’’ Gregory tells Holtzclaw.
The detectives leave Holtzclaw alone a third time. They’ve been going at him for an hour and 45 minutes.
Now, the detectives begin to check out some of his story. Davis returns briefly to ask Holtzclaw for his girlfriend’s telephone number.
Five minutes later, both detectives are back. Holtzclaw’s alibi already has a crack.
His girlfriend is disputing his claim that he tried to have sex with her when he got home from work earlier that day, Davis tells him. Holtzclaw insists he had.
“I don’t know what to say because it looks like I just caught you in lie and now I don’t know what to believe,” Davis says.
“You talk to him, I’m going to go call her again,” Davis tells Gregory, “because right now, I don’t believe him.”
Davis leaves the room.
Holtzclaw tells Gregory he wishes they didn’t have to involve his girlfriend. Gregory tells Holtzclaw they’ll let him explain things to her.
“You have any questions?” Gregory asks.
For the first time, Holtzclaw appears animated.
“I’m getting attacked now,” Holtzclaw says, raising his arms in exasperation. “I just feel like, God bless. I want DNA. I want everything. I want to get it done.”
Gregory asks Holtzclaw for his pants and shirt so they can be tested for DNA.
While he undresses, Holtzclaw asks Gregory whether he’s allowed to tell his family about what’s happened.
“It’s your life,’’ Gregory responds.
After changing into gym shorts and a black T-shirt, Holtzclaw, alone again, calls his girlfriend. The overhead camera catches Holtzclaw’s half of the conversation.
“Hey, baby. Babe, I need to tell you what’s going on. It’s crazy,” he says.
He tells his girlfriend he’ll be home soon.
“I gotta tell you it’s crazy, it’s nuts. I love you, OK? I love you.”
Two uniformed officers enter the room. One tells Holtzclaw he’s being placed on paid administrative leave.
“It’s just part of procedures,” the officer says. He says he'll need Holtzclaw's radio, weapon and badge. An officer will drive him home.
Davis and Gregory watch Holtzclaw leave the room. They’re both exhausted. They’ve been on the case 15 straight hours. There will be much longer days ahead.
8 a.m. | Thursday, June 19, 2014
In her third-floor office at Oklahoma City Police headquarters, sex crimes Detective Kim Davis arrives for the day to find a stack of large document boxes covering the top of her desk.
Inside are thousands of pages of every recorded encounter officer Daniel Holtzclaw has had with the public during his three years on the force. Who he’s pulled over. Who he’s run for warrants. Who he’s arrested.
A day earlier, a woman had contacted police in the early morning hours claiming she’d just been pulled over and sexually assaulted by a cop.
Already, detectives are focusing on Holtzclaw, 27, as their prime suspect. During his interrogation, Holtzclaw acknowledged he’d made the stop but said that nothing inappropriate had happened. The detectives know Holtzclaw is the only officer who was unaccounted for at the time in question and that he’d repeatedly violated department policy by turning off a tracking device on his police car when off duty.
They’ve also recovered grainy security camera footage that at least confirms that a police officer had pulled over a car exactly when and where the victim said she’d been assaulted.
The detectives are worried there may be even more victims. They know at least one other woman had made similar claims just a few weeks earlier about being stopped by an officer who then sexually assaulted her in his patrol car.
Davis spends some of the morning on the telephone setting up a 1 p.m. polygraph test for Holtzclaw. But when she calls Holtzclaw to notify him of the time, he tells her to call his lawyer who tells Davis she’s not going to let Holtzclaw take the test.
Davis isn’t surprised. She estimates 99 percent of defense attorneys wouldn’t allow their clients to be tested.
About 1:30 p.m., Lt. Tim Muzny, who heads the sex crimes unit, meets with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to see whether the agency can enhance the security video showing the traffic stop. An analyst is able to enlarge the video, but it doesn’t help much. The patrol car’s flashing emergency lights still wash out much of the image.
Davis, meanwhile, digs into Holtzclaw’s background.
She learns from an autobiography Holtzclaw wrote while in the police academy that he was the youngest of three and had been born in Guam where his father was serving in the Air Force. She learns that the family settled in Enid, where his father still serves on the police force, and where Holtzclaw graduated high school in 2005. Holtzclaw wrote that he’d earned a football scholarship to Eastern Michigan University and graduated in 2010 with a criminal justice degree and dreams of playing in the NFL. When he wasn’t drafted, he returned to Oklahoma.
Another detective contacts the Michigan college’s campus security office to see whether Holtzclaw has any history there.
The answer comes back no.
Davis and other detectives dive into the boxes of records. They spend weeks searching for patterns, coincidences, odd occurrences. Things that just don’t look right.
Davis typically takes the files home every night to sift through while sitting at her kitchen table.
The detectives begin by compiling a list of 400 names, all the women Holtzclaw has come into contact with. They look to see which have criminal histories of drug use or prostitution or might have had outstanding arrest warrants at the time Holtzclaw stopped them.
That whittles the list of names to about 50.
The detectives spend the next several weeks trying to find as many of the women as they can, scouring the city, talking with friends and family, checking jail logs, squeezing informants.
They meet with women in their homes, on street corners and in a church.
In one instance, Gregory has his teenage daughter in the car, when he's notified that patrol officer have found one of his potential victims and are holding her until he can get there. Gregory speeds across town and interviews the woman while his daughter waits in the car.
When detectives find a potential victim, they try to keep their initial line of questioning vague, wanting victims to provide the facts and details.
They ask the women when and where the incidents occurred and how long they lasted.
Davis also spends hours on the phone with the department’s technical staff trying to map out Holtzclaw’s movements based on the tracking device in his patrol car.
They then compare those movements to the women’s stories to see whether they line up.
In many instances they do.
Detective Gregory and a handful of police officers stand in the parking lot of Gold's Gym in northwest Oklahoma City. It’s August 21, 2014, two months since a 57-year-old woman first came forward alleging she’d been assaulted by an Oklahoma City police officer.
A lieutenant uses a cellphone to call Holtzclaw who’s inside the gym working out. The lieutenant tells the suspended officer he needs him to step outside to sign a document.
In his left hand, Gregory holds a pair of silver handcuffs. With him are several gang unit members, brought along in case Holtzclaw tries to resist or run.
Holtzclaw emerges into the hot afternoon sunshine. He’s wearing gray sweatpants and a sleeveless T-shirt. At 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, he still resembles the star linebacker he was just a few years before at Eastern Michigan University.
When Holtzclaw sees the group of officers, he stops.
Gregory steps forward, hand extended. He wants to keep the situation calm. The two men shake.
“We have a warrant for your arrest,” Gregory tells Holtzclaw.
Holtzclaw nods, turns and put his hands behind his back.
A lieutenant drives Holtzclaw downtown to be booked. The young officer remains silent throughout the ride.
At the county jail, all but essential personnel are ordered out of the receiving area, a standard procedure in the rare instances when a police officer is being arrested. The often-raucous environment is almost silent as Holtzclaw is escorted to be fingerprinted, photographed and issued an orange jail jumpsuit.
Sixteen months later, waiting in a near empty courtroom, Gregory mindlessly raps his knuckles on the table top. Davis stands next to him, glancing at the box where the jury will take their seats.
“Are you nervous,” Davis asks.
Gregory nods his head.
“Yeah,” he says.
“I feel nervous and nauseated,” Davis continues. “I think this is the most nervous I’ve ever been.”
For more than a year, the two detectives have been tracking down evidence and building a case they hoped would bring justice in one of the greatest abuses of police authority in the department’s history.
In that time, they found 13 women who claimed they’d been sexually assaulted by Holtzclaw.
Behind them, the courtroom begins to fill with family, friends, press and spectators.
The trial has lasted 21 days and included testimony from more than 50 witnesses, including Gregory and Davis.
Jury deliberations have stretched into the late hours almost every night — 45 hours over four days. But the wait is almost over. It's almost 8 p.m. The jury of six men and four women is returning with a verdict.
Sitting in the front row, Gregory’s teenage daughter, the same one who months before had waited in the car while Gregory had interviewed one of the victims, gives her dad a nod of encouragement. Next to her sits Davis’ teenage son, also there to lend support.
The verdicts take 12 minutes to read. Holtzclaw is found guilty on 18 of 36 counts, including sexual battery, forcible oral sodomy and rape. It is his 29th birthday.
As the judge reads the verdicts, Davis and Gregory sit at the prosecution table showing no obvious visible reaction. Later, they turn to watch as Holtzclaw is led from the courtroom, sobbing and pleading his innocence.
More than a month later, both detectives are in the courtroom again when Holtzclaw is sentenced to 263 years in prison.
Afterward, Davis heads upstairs to meet briefly with the prosecutor and a couple of jurors to get their feedback on the case, before heading back to the office.
Gregory lingers in the crowded courthouse hallway. He watches as reporters mob one of Holtzclaw’s victims, Jannie Ligons, the first to report being assaulted.
“Justice was served today,” he hears Ligons tell the media.
He watches as several victims and their supporters hug.
Through the trial he’d felt detached. But now, seeing the joy on the faces of the women who’d been through so much, he smiles.
Today, Oklahoma City continues to confront the aftermath of Officer Daniel Holtzclaw’s actions.
Holtzclaw, 29, is appealing his conviction. He is being held at an undisclosed location.
At least 11 of the women who accused Holtzclaw of sexual assault have filed federal lawsuits against Holtzclaw, Oklahoma City and the police department for, among other things, failing to properly test and train Holtzclaw and investigate allegations of police abuse.
Meanwhile, Police Chief Bill Citty is working to repair the damage done to his department as well as the damage his department has done, promising to earn back the community’s trust. He continues to meet with community groups and hold public forums addressing minority residents' concerns and pledges to hire more minority officers.
Gregory, 40, is now assigned to homicide, where he continues to work on some of the city’s highest-profile cases. He'd grown up wanting to be a cop. Loved the brotherhood of the badge, the camaraderie, how cops looked out for each other. The Holtzclaw case won't change that, he says.
Davis, 51, is looking forward to her final roll call. Two back surgeries. Constant pain. Nearly three decades of seeing how terrible people can be. She's ready to call it a career. She'll retire in June.
She admits she’s grown weary of the work that used to fuel her need for excitement. It warps you, she says.
She wants to go home, be with family, her four dogs, work in her garden and begin her life outside law enforcement.
She’ll miss putting the puzzles together. Hunting bad guys. Her partner.
She's remorseful that her name and Holtzclaw's will be linked forever, that her legacy will be as a cop who brought down a fellow officer.
But she also recalls talking to Holtzclaw’s victims in the days after the trial and some of the things they said to her.
Thank you for finding me. Thank you for believing me. Thank you for the hard work.
Davis doesn’t get too emotional. She’s not much of a crier. But she does feel happy. Proud. Glad that she could do that for them.
That’s what she wants to be known for.