By Chris Hoenig
Two Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers are suspended with pay while an investigation continues into a seven-minute altercation that left a Black motorist bloodied and bruised near Oklahoma City.
According to the police report, Pearl Pearson, who is deaf, was pulled over after fleeing a car accident just south of the city. The report says officers repeatedly ordered Pearson to show his hands, but a seven-minute altercation broke out when he did not comply. Pearson was hospitalized and left with bruises on his face.
He was ultimately charged with resisting arrest and fleeing the scene of an accident.
Pearson’s attorney, Billy Coyle, says the police report is just covering up the excessive force used against a deaf Black man who could not understand the officers’ orders. “My client is completely innocent of these allegations.We are waiting on the OHP report and we are sorting through the facts of the case,” Coyle said. “My client is profoundly deaf and was trying to give officers his specialty license during the stop.”
That license, according to a website setup for Pearson, indicates he is deaf, as does a visor placard inside his car. The website also says that Pearson asked for someone to help him communicate but was denied, even after the altercation and arrest. “An interpreter was never provided while Pearl was under the care of law enforcementnot during the booking, hospital or while at the jail, even though Pearl requested one,” the website states.
The troopers, identified as Eric Foster and Kelton Hayes, will remain on the payroll while an investigation determines whether or not the two will face criminal charges. “After an internal review of facts surrounding the arrest of Mr. Pearl Pearson, Chief of Patrol Colonel Rick Adams has directed investigators to expand the focus of their investigation in order to determine if there were any violations of state law,” Oklahoma Highway Patrol Captain George Brown said. “If through the course of this investigation it is determined there were violations of department policy and/or state law, the appropriate action will be taken. To date, the office of the chief has not received any outside complaint regarding this event. State Troopers Foster and Hayes remain on suspension with pay pending the results of this investigation.”
Dash-cam video of the traffic stop and altercation haven’t been released because the Oklahoma Highway Patrol is exempt from a state law that makes police dash-cam video subject to a public-information request, which is how police reports are obtained. The law states the videos are public record and should be released following arrests, though the Highway Patrol has been exempt from it since 2005.
Less than two weeks after the altercation and arrest, Oklahoma State Senator David Holt introduced a bill that would close the loophole and make Highway Patrol dash-cam video public. “It’s only OHP that has an exemption. It’s not right, it’s not defensible, and we saw two weeks ago with the incident in Oklahoma City exactly why we need to change the law,” Holt said.
Pearson’s website, meanwhile, continues to raise funds for the 64-year-old, who supporters say has no reason to disobey police officers. “Pearl’s own son is a police officer, as was his son-in-law, who is now a deputy sheriff,” the website says. “He respects law enforcement and knows how to respond when pulled over. There is no reason for someone like Pearl to be hurt like this by those who are meant to protect and serve.” He is also receiving support from the group Total Source for Hearing-Loss and Access, which held a spaghetti dinner as a fundraiser to help offset his bills.