Oklahoma increases security for corrections dept. head

Robert Patton,  head of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections AP / Sue Ogrocki

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has increased security for its director following threatening phone calls and emails after a botched execution in April, according to records obtained by a newspaper.

The Tulsa World reported Sunday that records show the department bought a bullet-resistant sport utility vehicle with tinted windows for agency Director Robert Patton at a total cost of $40,587 and he is now accompanied by bodyguards.

Members of the Corrections Department's Office of Inspector General serve as security and drive the vehicle when Patton travels, according to the documents obtained by the newspaper. The state's Office of Management and Enterprise Services approved the purchase of the SUV.

"After speaking directly with the Department of Corrections, there is a definite concern due to specific threats against the life of the Director of the Department of Corrections related to the recent execution case," the office's state fleet manager, Terry Zuniga, wrote in a May 22 email.

"I cannot in good conscience put him at risk," Zuniga wrote. "As a result, Fleet will approve this request."

The threats followed the April 29 execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed on the gurney, moaned and clenched his teeth for several minutes after the lethal injection began. The execution was stopped after a doctor determined there was a problem with a single IV in Lockett's groin. He was subsequently pronounced dead of an apparent heart attack.

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin has ordered an independent investigation into Lockett's execution.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said the threatening emails were sent to the Office of Inspector General. He said the phone calls could not be traced.

Patton, who was named director in January after the resignation of Justin Jones, came to Oklahoma from Arizona, where he was division director of operations for the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Massie said Patton does not have 24-hour security every day, only when he travels. He declined to discuss specifics of the security detail.

"We feel like that would compromise the security of the director," Massie said.

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