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Investigation underway into fatal police shooting of Sudanese worker at Oklahoma pork processing plant

Oklahoma state police are investigating the fatal shooting of a Sudanese worker by local police officers at a pork processing plant earlier this month. 

The union which represents workers at the plant has called for an immediate federal investigation into the Jan. 9 fatal shooting of Chiewelthap Mariar, 26, by Guymon City police while he was working at the Seaboard Foods pork processing plant. According to the union, Mariar was a Sudanese refugee who immigrated to the U.S. with his family. 

On the night of the shooting, police arrived at the plant – which employs 2,600 people, according to the company – to answer a call about a disgruntled employee, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) said. As the officers were speaking to Mariar, he produced a knife and started to advance towards them, OSBI said. After attempting to de-escalate the situation, officers used a taser to stun Mariar, OSBI reports.    

The taser did not stop Mariar's advancement, OSBI said, so an officer pulled his gun and shot him. Mariar was rushed to the hospital where he died, OSBI reports.   

A worker, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Guardian newspaper that Mariar was fired earlier that day, but had been asked by a supervisor to stay on to finish his shift. 

"I witnessed the entire thing, from when they started arguing with him until he was shot," the worker told the Guardian. "He had a company-issued band-cutter in his hand. When the police got to the plant, the guy was already working, minding his own business." 

The worker told The Guardian he himself was fired after the company discovered he had filmed portions of the incident on his cell phone. 

The union alleges that police escalated the situation.

"The local police did not take sufficient measures to protect our members - and this worker instead brandishing their weapons and ultimately taking the life of a 26-year old young man who had his whole life before him," said Martin Rosas, president of UFCW District Union Local 2, in a Jan. 12 statement. 

"The union will take all measures to ensure justice is achieved," Rosas added.

In his statement, Rosas said Mariar and his family came to the U.S. "to escape the violence and strife of Sudan."

Guymon is a city with a population of about 11,000 located in northwestern Oklahoma, near the Texas and Kansas borders. The city had one murder in 2020, and about 176 reported crimes, according to police statistics. That same year, Guymon was ranked the safest city in Oklahoma, its city website said.

Seaboard Foods, the country's second-largest pig grower and fourth-largest pork processing company, has been embroiled in numerous labor disputes and lawsuits. It was part of a lawsuit last year accusing 11 of the nation's largest beef and pork producers of conspiring to depress wages and benefits. It was also named in a lawsuit last year accusing major pork producers of price fixing

In 2018, the Seaboard Corporation, which operates the Guymon pork production plant through its subsidiary Seaboard Foods, agreed to pay a just over $1 million fine over allegations that the Guymon plant hired and employed unauthorized workers, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

OSHA has also fined the company for failing to record injuries that required more than basic first aid, and put protections in place to prevent injuries from repetitive motions and lifting.

Seaboard Foods did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CBS News. 

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