Judge in murder case restricts access to courtroom after shots fired downtown Wednesday (2024)

Anna Codutti

A Tulsa County judge restricted access to his courtroom the day after an argument during a preliminary hearing related to the Jan. 1 slaying of a 12-year-old escalated into a shooting in a downtown parking area Wednesday.

Alvin Chaplin, 18; Salathiel Fields, 19; and Tajon Figures, 19, are charged with murder after Steven Bruner was fatally shot during a house party in midtown Tulsa near the Broken Arrow Expressway. Police said during the investigation that a gang feud likely resulted in the shooting.

While presiding over a preliminary hearing for the three men, Tulsa County Special Judge Rodney Sparkman requested assistance from Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office deputies after proceedings were disrupted.

“You had these two groups that are upset at each other over this trial, and they decided to become very belligerent in the court, and the judge cleared the courtroom,” Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office Maj. John Bryant told the Tulsa World.

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Bryant said deputies escorted people from the courthouse and then got into position to “keep an eye on them” to prevent their possible return to the county courthouse at Fifth Street and Denver Avenue.

Judge in murder case restricts access to courtroom after shots fired downtown Wednesday (2)

The deputies observed as the argument continued off county property while individuals walked to a municipal parking area on a level lower than the courthouse’s main level. The area is across Fourth Street from the building that houses Tulsa’s federal courthouse.

“They walked to the north toward the (Page Belcher) Federal Building and went out of deputies’ line of sight,” Bryant said. “It looked like they were going to leave, (but) then the shots rang out.”

No one has reported being struck by the gunfire, authorities said Thursday.

Other than the restricted access to Sparkman’s courtroom, Bryant said no security changes are planned as the murder case moves forward.

“What I’m happy to say is that the system that we have, and the security measures that we have, they actually succeeded,” he said. “They worked really well because this did not happen at the courthouse.”

Tulsa Police Capt. Richard Meulenberg indicated that it’s unlikely someone sneaked a firearm into the courthouse. Around 10,000 people each week go through metal detectors to enter the building, Bryant said.

“They don’t have people checking for guns outside, … but when they come back out, they have guns in their cars — they could be a problem,” Meulenberg said from the scene Wednesday. “Obviously, when a 12-year-old loses his life, you’re going to have some high emotions.”

Authorities agreed that the case creates the potential for altercations, with people who Bryant said “were very unhappy with the testimony and witnesses.”

“We handle a lot of people and on very emotional situations,” he said, adding that 426,101 people went through the county courthouse metal detectors last year. “I’m very proud of the deputies here and the response.”

District Attorney Steven Kunzweiler also expressed gratitude for the efforts of deputies and police officers who responded to the chaotic scene Wednesday.

“They professionally handled the situation without regard to their own personal safety,” he said in an emailed statement. “It is unfortunate that there are individuals who try to settle arguments with violence.

Judge in murder case restricts access to courtroom after shots fired downtown Wednesday (3)

“I am hopeful that the Tulsa County Commissioners and City of Tulsa will assess the safety perimeter around its courthouse facilities. With today’s technology, there should be an abundance of security cameras to capture incidents like this — or put another way — to dissuade an incident like this.”

No arrests have been made in connection with the shots fired Wednesday.

An investigator said Fields is a known affiliate of SGN, a Bloods gang subset, which is “significant because the individuals at the house party where Bruner was killed are known affiliates of GOG, a Hoover subset.” The well-known rivalry between the Bloods and Hoover gang subsets provides a possible motive for the homicide, police said earlier this year.

Chaplin, Fields and Figures remain in the Tulsa County jail with bail set at $2 million for each defendant on the charge of first-degree murder.

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Judge in murder case restricts access to courtroom after shots fired downtown Wednesday (2024)
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