Private Officer Sentenced To Prison For Shooting by; Rick McCann

Tulsa OK. Oct. 15, 2007

A former security guard assigned to a Tulsa apartment complex received a four-year sentence for a fatal shooting almost four years ago. Tulsa County jurors on Friday found Donald Ray Cowan guilty of first-degree manslaughter in the death of Ronald Henderson, 39. The jury imposed a four-year term that is the minimum allowed for the manslaughter offense. Cowan, who had been free on bail, was jailed after the three-day trial in District Judge Gordon McAllister's court. Formal sentencing is set for Nov. 15. McAllister will determine whether Cowan is sentenced to prison, probation, or some combination of the two. Cowan, 32, testified that he had "no other option" when he shot Henderson on Jan. 10, 2004, at the Windsong Apartments, 9750 E. 31st St. Assistant District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said Cowan "over-reached and crossed the line" in responding to a situation in which Cowan, then employed with a security agency and assigned to the apartment complex, stopped a sports utility vehicle for driving the wrong way at the complex.

Kunzweiler said no other traffic was affected and that Henderson, a visitor there, could have routinely left if Cowan had not intervened.

Cowan indicated that after Henderson drove the SUV toward him, Cowan fired three shots in an effort to disable the vehicle. Cowan testified that Henderson had said he had a gun, and Cowan said he repeatedly told Henderson to keep his hands on the steering wheel. Cowan indicated that Henderson reached for something, and "I reasonably believed that he had a gun and he was going to shoot me." Kunzweiler said Cowan, positioned on the driver's side of the SUV and not in front of it, fired three more shots, striking Henderson. The prosecutor said evidence showed that Henderson had no gun and that Cowan did not tell police at the scene that Henderson threatened to shoot him. Kunzweiler asserted that Cowan wasn't entitled to a self-defense claim because "he assumed the role of the aggressor. Mr. Henderson was backing up to get away from him." Defense attorney Patrick Adams said he "didn't see any evidence at all" that Cowan "was not acting in self-defense." Adams said the case reflects a "double standard" because "there is no way he would have been charged at all if he had been a Tulsa police officer." Cowan said he has been working as a police officer in Cromwell, which is in Seminole County. Prosecutors filed the charge on Jan. 3, 2005, almost a full year after the shooting.

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