Guthrie, OK – The parole board has recommended that Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt commute the sentence of a woman who was sentenced to 116 years in prison after she tried to murder a Guthrie police officer.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-2 to recommend Shirley Cloyd for commutation at its October meeting, the Guthrie News Page reported.
The recommendation comes just three months after the parole board voted 3-1 to deny Cloyd parole.
There has been some controversy because two members of the parole board appointed by the current governor have obvious conflicts of interest for serving in that capacity, the Guthrie News Page reported.
Logan and Payne County District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas recommended that parole board members Kelly Doyle and Adam Luck be disqualified from weighing in on cases because both of them employ parolees that are considered for parole and commutation.
Doyle assists communities in in creating employment opportunities for convicts when they are released, according to the district attorney.
Thomas said Luck serves on the Board of Directors for the Center for Employment Opportunities, the Guthrie News Page reported.
The district attorney further explained the conflict in a comment on the Guthrie News Page’s Facebook page why and how Cloyd’s case had made it to Phase 2 of the commutation application process.
“What’s happening in this case and others are that defendants are seeking commutations as opposed to parole,” Thomas wrote. “She was sentenced on one count, shooting with intent to kill our police officer, to 50 years. Shooting with intent is an 85% crime which means she is nowhere parole eligible.”
“How to get around that? These days you apply for commutation and that means that pardon and parole board group of 5 political appointees can recommend it be commuted to let’s say 20 years or whatever they want to make her now parole eligible then boom she is out!!” the district attorney added.
“It’s a total scam to ignore the will of the people,” she explained. “The board is not just releasing non violent [offenders] as you can clearly see. 2 of the board members, kelly doyle and adam luck are associated with the center for employment opportunities who hire and find jobs for released felons. The more people those 2 release I would imagine the more clients they would gain. Why [nobody] has screamed about this self serving conflict of interest is beyond me. They have voted to release all sorts of violent offenders.”
Thomas said the parole board was “intentionally set on releasing anybody without regard to public safety or respect for our juries and processes.”
Only the governor has the final authority to commute Cloyd’s sentence, but Stitt’s track record leans heavily in the would-be cop killer’s favor.
Stitt signed the largest single-day commutation in U.S. History on Nov. 1, 2019 when he commuted the sentences of 523 non-violent offenders recommended by the parole board, the Guthrie News Page reported.
In April, the governor commuted the sentences of 452 offenders out of what he said was caution during the pandemic.
But Cloyd was convicted of multiple felonies including the attempted murder of a law enforcement officer and doesn’t fit any of the categories that Stitt has previously commuted, the Guthrie News Page reported.
The incident occurred just after 7 a.m. on March 23, 2001 when then-Guthrie Police Detective Mark Bruning, who was part of a drug task for the district attorney, tried to serve a warrant on a woman who was cooking and dealing methamphetamine out of her home in rural Payne County, Tulsa World reported.
Now-Lt. Bruning told The Police Tribune that a member of the task force had bought drugs from Cloyd a day earlier.
He said the task force, comprised of law enforcement officers from the Stillwater Police Department, the Guthrie Police Department, and the Logan and Payne County Sheriff’s Offices, used a SWAT approach when they arrived at Cloyd’s house.
But what they didn’t know, Lt. Bruning told The Police Tribune, was that Cloyd had a camera set up in a birdhouse in her yard.
He said that when a dog nearby barked at the approaching task force members, Cloyd turned on a 20-inch television set in her bedroom and watched the officers approach her house on closed-circuit TV.
She loaded two handguns as she watched police on the screen, and opened fire on officers from her bed as soon as they entered the house, according to the Guthrie News Page.
“We entered the house announcing ‘police search warrant’ and I was the first in,” Lt. Bruning told The Police Tribune. “And as I turned into her bedroom, I could see her sitting on the bed pointing a gun. For some reason, I just leaned back as she shot.”
He said that Oklahoma State Police investigators later determined that if then-Det. Bruning hadn’t leaned back at that exact moment, Cloyd would have shot him in the face, twice.
Det. Bruning returned fire and hit the woman shooting at him.
“I then shot several times and got the team outside to cover,” he told The Police Tribune. “Cloyd yelled out she was done, tossed the gun away, and EMS was called to treat and transport her to Stillwater Medical Center.”
Cloyd confessed what she had done to a nurse in the Emergency Room, Tulsa World reported.
“How many of them did I get?” she asked.
Prosecutors said she then “told the nurse she wished she had shot more. She wished the cops had killed her,” Tulsa World reported.
Cloyd’s 11-year-old daughter was asleep in the home when her mother opened fire on the officers in the direction of the child’s bedroom, Lt. Bruning told The Police Tribune.
The jury unanimously convicted Cloyd and sentenced her to a total of 116 years in prison for her crimes.
She got 50 years for shooting with intent to kill the officer, 25 years for possessing substances with intent to manufacture methamphetamine, 25 years for possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute, 10 years for possessing another gun while committing a felony, five years for possessing two simulated grenades, and one year for possessing drug paraphernalia, Tulsa World reported.
The judge ordered that Cloyd’s sentences should run consecutively, the Guthrie News Page reported.
As Cloyd was taken from the courtroom after she was sentenced, she apologized to Det. Bruning, Tulsa World reported.
“If you are the officer who came into my house that day, and if I did shoot at you, I am very sorry,” she told him as she passed him on her way back to jail.
Cloyd appealed her convictions multiple times and was denied by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, the Guthrie News Page reported.
But despite all of those confirmations of her guilt, Cloyd applied to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board earlier this year for commutation of her sentence and the board assigned an investigator to her case.
That investigator recommended commutation for the woman convicted of trying to kill then-Det. Bruning.
“Yes, parole is recommended to her CS case,” the investigator recommended, according to the P&P Docket obtained by The Police Tribune. “She is serving her first incarceration, and she has received only one misconduct report this incarceration. She has also completed various programs to aid in her stability and independence in prevention of reincarceration.”
The parole board voted 3-to-1 to advance her commutation application to the Phase 2, and scheduled a hearing for May 4, the Guthrie News Page reported.
The district attorney told the parole board on March 3 in a protest letter obtained by The Police Tribune that Cloyd’s application for commutation was filled will falsehoods.
Thomas said Cloyd’s application said “she did not discharge her weapon” despite her confessions to the emergency room nurse, her apology to Det. Bruning in court, ballistic evidence that showed she fired, and the fact she was lying in wait for the officers with multiple loaded weapons.
She said Cloyd also claimed she was arrested because of a deal made by the prosecutor’s office.
“This is also a falsehood and utterly ridiculous,” the district attorney told the parole board in her letter. “There was no ‘deal’ cut which is why this case was taken to trial and she was found guilty and sentenced to 50 years in prison on Count 1 alone (Shooting with Intent to Kill).”
Thomas pointed out that Cloyd was manufacturing and selling methamphetamine in the presence of her 11-year-old daughter who was home when she shot at the officers.
“This is an issue of public safety,” she insisted. “Not the case of the addict sent to prison for simple possession. We honestly are in shock that the investigator in this matter has recommended parole in a case of Shooting with Intent to Kill, specifically a case where she tried to kill one of our men in uniform.”
“Frankly, we are appalled. We implore the Board prevent this from happening,” Thomas added.
For Lt. Bruning, who went on to work on the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and is now the supervising lieutenant for Criminal Investigations, the fact that Cloyd’s application for commutation is even being considered has opened up old wounds.
“I was 27 at the time the shooting took place and it was rough,” he told The Police Tribune. “I was married at the time with a nine-year-old daughter. After the trial was over with, I tried to get rid of all thoughts of it.”
“When I was notified she was getting out, being much older now it really bothered me,” Lt. Bruning said. “I don’t have a choice but to live with this for the rest of my life. The state has a choice to make her serve 85 percent of the time the jury gave her.”
“I have never asked for pity throughout my 25 years on the force,” he further explained. “I loved the first day on the job and I love my job today. I just want to think that all I have done, and all that other officers have done, wasn’t for nothing.”
Lt. Bruning told The Police Tribune that the parole board was showing they didn’t care about the lives of law enforcement officers.
“No regard for public safety,” he said, frustrated. “I believe they have total lack of respect for the judicial system.”
The lieutenant pointed out that Cloyd has never formally admitted to her crimes and has “shown zero remorse” for having tried to kill him and his fellow officers that day in 2001.
“I think she is a danger to any community,” he added.