The Phillips & Associates Oklahoma Law Blog


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By Dustin Phillips on
January 7, 2016
December 31, 2019

Early on New Year's Day, a group of three teenagers in Pryor decided it would be funny to knock on neighbors' doors to wake them up before running away. The prank would prove costly for the teens. Around 1:00 a.m., a man shot at the group of teens, striking a 14-year-old boy multiple times. Emergency operators received two phone calls regarding the incident: one from the teenager who had been shot, and another from a man saying he had shot someone trying to break into the home.

Now, the shooter has been arrested in connection with the incident. While Oklahoma law supports the Castle Doctrine, which allows a person to use lethal force against an intruder, investigators say that the evidence indicates Derek James Morgan, 30, used undue force in shooting at the fleeing teenagers.

Shortly after 1:00 a.m. on New Year's Day, emergency operators received two phone calls: one from a teenage boy saying he had been shot, and another from a man saying he shot an intruder and needed police and an ambulance.

When police arrived, they found Cole Peyton, 14, who said that he and two friends had been knocking on the doors of neighborhood homes to wake up residents before running away. When they arrived at Morgan's father's home, they did not get a response, so they went around to the back yard to knock on a window. While they were in the back yard, he says, a man came out and started shooting at them. He was shot in the back and arm as he and his friends ran away. Peyton suffered two "through and through" injuries--one to his forearm and one entering his back and exiting his stomach.

Morgan told police that he heard people in the back yard and believed that someone was trying to break into his father's home. He said he went into the back yard to confront the "intruders," telling them to put their hands in the air and not to move. Instead, he says, one of the teens reached behind his back. Believing the teen to be reaching for a weapon, Morgan began to fire.

Although Oklahoma law allows the use of deadly force against an intruder or to protect oneself from imminent harm, such force is no longer justified once the threat is neutralized and the person is no longer in danger of immediate harm.

In this case, evidence seems to indicate that the shooting took place after the teens began to run away. According to Morgan's father, it was so dark outside that he didn't understand how his son could see any of the teens reaching for anything. But most damning, perhaps, is the evidence that Peyton was shot in the back, in the street, roughly 85 feet from where Morgan first began shooting. In other words, it does not appear that the shooter was in fear for his life or safety when he shot the teen, even if he did initially believe the pranksters to be intruders.

Morgan has been arrested and was booked into the Mayes County Jail on a complaint of assault and battery with a deadly weapon--a felony 85 percent crime that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Bond is set at $100,000.

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