Monday, October 22, 2007

Bounty Hunter Upset by Charges

Behind the tattoos covering his arms and creeping up his neck, Roger Brooks of the Marble City area is awell-spoken 33-year-old who has found himself on the wrong side of the law after nearly 10 years of trying to overcome his criminal past.

A case of mistaken identity that led to a botched bond enforcement operation in June may cost the self-professed bounty hunter 15 years of his life - behind bars. Now Brooks is coming forward in the hopes of clearing his name.

"We worked really really hard to come as far as we have...not to be looked at as criminals," Brooks said of his and his wife, Lisa.

Brooks, along with another man, Rodney Swearingen, was charged this summer with burglary and malicious injury to property after an incident that occurred while the two were allegedly working as bond enforcement agents, known as bounty hunters.

Brooks and Swearingen entered a Muldrow man's home in June and broke down a bathroom door in an attempt to apprehend the man whom Brooks and Swearingen thought was the fugitive they were seeking. But the "Frank McConnell" they thought they had located turned out to be the wrong man - a man by a different first name.

That mistake led to charges of burglary and malicious injury to property against the former bounty hunters - charges that Brooks calls unfair. Brooks is most puzzled that he was charged with burglary, instead of trespassing or a lesser charge.

"I'm not a burglar," Brooks said.

But Kyle Waters, the assistant district attorney who is reportedly handling the case, said the charge of burglary is often misconceived and doesn't always refer to theft. He said burglary doesn't require intent to steal anything, but is defined as entering without permission a residence to commit a crime.

Waters said the crime in this case was that Brooks and Swearingen broke down a door and threatened someone.

"They left without a word when they realized they made a mistake," Waters said.

Waters noted that Brooks' contact with Swearingen, a known felon, was also in violation of his probation. He said Brooks has waived his preliminary hearing and Brooks was going to do community sentencing, but didn't qualify.

A hearing that was set Monday in Brooks' case was continued. Swearingen currently has an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

Brooks said he had been a bounty hunter in the county for a long time - a job that he discovered he was good at doing after years of only being good at "rough housing."
Brooks said he had been working for Berglan Bail Bonds in Sallisaw for a year at the time of the incident. During that time, Brooks said he never made a mistake, until this year. He said now the owners of the bond company are denying he worked for them.

But Lance Berglan, the owner of Berglan Bail Bonds tells a different story.


Berglan on Thursday said Brooks was doing construction work for him at the time that Frank McConnell jumped bond. But Berglan denied that Brooks had been working for him as a bail bondsman for a year.

"That's not true," he said. "If he did, it wasn't for me."

He said Brooks offered to go get the man, a situation that he said "turned into a nightmare" and resulted in Berglan firing Brooks.

He claims that Brooks took it on himself to kick down a door and go into a home with his shirt off. Berglan noted that bounty hunters do not have to be licensed.

Berglan said when he needs someone caught, he tells anyone, even retired officers, that they are welcome to find the person. The bond retriever then gets a percentage from the bond.

He said he warns all bounty hunters not to go into anyone's home unless they see the person go into the home or public place. "It has to be the right guy," he emphasized.

Berglan said Brooks and Swearingen had no business going in the home. "They didn't know he was in there."

"What they did is against the law. He knew he was in the wrong," Berglan said.

He said he has been in the bond business for five years and he has never gone into anyone's home without seeing the wanted person go into the home. He added that he has never been brought up on charges either.

Berglan noted that he bonded both men out of jail after the incident, and would not divulge some information he said was between he and Brooks.

"They screwed up."


In June, Brooks said he and Swearingen, who was his partner, went to an address in Muldrow that Frank McConnell, who had allegedly skipped bond, was supposedly staying.

Brooks said he had the Berglan Bail Bond file on McConnell with him and was even driving a Berglan vehicle at the time.

While the address he went to was a McConnell address, Brooks said, "Unfortunately it was the wrong McConnell."

But Brooks didn't discover that error until it was too late.

On that day, Brooks said he went through an open garage door and knocked on a door to the home, identifying himself as a bounty hunter. Brooks said he looked through the window of the door and saw what appeared to be an elderly person's home and saw that it looked like someone had been sleeping on a couch. He thought that person was Frank McConnell.

The two staked out the place for a while - waiting on someone to pull up to the home. After about 30 minutes the two went to get a snack and drink, came back and again approached the home, but no one was there, Brooks claims. Brooks said he wondered why the garage door was left open if no one was home.

"Something tells me this guy is in there," he said.

He went back to watching the home when he said he saw a person peek out from the window blinds.

A few minutes later, Brooks and Swearingen made their move. Brooks said he and Swearingen shed their shirts because they thought there could be trouble. But he claims the two were wearing fugitive recovery jackets the previous times that they knocked on the door to the home.

Brooks said he went up to the same door in the garage the third time and saw a man laying on the couch watching television. He said he could only see a knee and half the man's face.

Brooks said he beat on the door, identifying himself and calling out the name "Frank McConnell."

He then saw the man run to the back of the home.

"Everything is fitting together," Brooks said.

Brooks said he and Swearingen discovered the back sliding glass door was open and entered the home. Brooks claims he called out "Frank McConnell" before going into the home and identified himself as a bounty hunter.

"At no point did he send me away," he said.

Brooks admits to kicking the bathroom door open and told the man to put his hands behind his back.

"I never touched him," Brooks said.

Brooks said at that time, the man told him he was not Frank McConnell and retrieved his driver's license to prove his identity.

Brooks said they immediately left the home and after calling his boss, they went to the police department and were arrested on the burglary charge.

He said that he thought he might face a charge of trespassing or other misdemeanors, but is instead facing felonies.

"I didn't go in the house with the intent to take anything," he said.


The victim told police that about an hour prior to the break-in, two men, without shirts and covered in tattoos, knocked on his door and the victim chose not to answer it.

Shortly before the victim called police, the same two men came back to his home, which was owned by the victim's mother, and the victim heard the sliding door rattle and thought the men were breaking into his home. Police said after the incident that the victim fled to the bathroom, where he locked himself in. The men allegedly kicked in the bathroom door, got in the man's face and were calling him "Frank" McConnell.

The victim, who has a different first name than the wanted man, told police that he was afraid of the men, but thought if he could prove he wasn't Frank they wouldn't hurt him. He showed them his driver's license and the men left.

The victim, who was in his 50s, said the shirtless men had mace, flashlights and handcuffs on their belts.

While Brooks admits that he made a mistake, he said he doesn't think the charge against him is fair since he claims he was under the direction of his employer.

Brooks said he has been advised by his attorney, whom Berglan retained for him, not to go to trial because of the way he looks. But Brooks seems unwilling to end up in prison again.

He admits he has a criminal past and spent time in prison 10 years ago. But Brooks said he has been clean for 10 years and he has been trying to give back to the community.

Brooks, who is also a tattoo artist and has 154 tattoos himself, said that since the incident he and his wife have lost both their vehicles and they are behind on their bills.

"It's not right," he said about the charges and the possibilities he faces.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

No comments: