NORMAN, Okla. – An Oklahoma police officer was "justified and appropriate" in using his Taser to shoot a man who died after he burst into flames and got into his gasoline-soaked truck, a state prosecutor wrote in a letter released Friday clearing the officer in the man's death.
Dana Dean Carrothers had apparently doused himself with gasoline and was carrying a lighter after police encountered him on Nov. 7 near Lindsay, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) south of Oklahoma City. District Attorney Greg Mashburn wrote that the 52-year-old Norman man ignored repeated police orders to get on the ground and was headed toward his truck when Lindsay Police Officer Brian Guthrie, fearing Carrothers may have had a weapon inside the vehicle, deployed his Taser.
"Within a few seconds, Carrothers' torso was on fire," Mashburn wrote. "It is unknown if the (Taser) or the lighter caused the fire."
Guthrie sustained first- and second-degree burns on his arms and face trying to extinguish the flames, Masbhurn said, but Carrothers broke free and got back in his truck. A loud explosion followed, and the truck erupted in flames, with Carrothers in the driver's seat.
"He made no effort to get out and stayed in the truck until he died," Mashburn wrote.
The shooting was investigated by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
Authorities said Guthrie and another Lindsay officer were responding to a mutual-aid request from the McClain County Sheriff's Office to a report of a suicidal man who was possibly armed when they encountered Carrothers in his vehicle. Mashburn wrote that Carrothers appeared to be dousing himself in liquid from a red can before exiting the truck with a cigarette lighter in his hand.
Lindsay Police Chief Clint Wood and City Manager Stephen Mills did not immediately return telephone messages Friday seeking a response to Mashburn's decision.
Carrothers' brother, Jeffrey Carrothers of Alburnett, Iowa, said he was aware of Mashburn's decision, but declined to comment.
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