Julie Huff was a customer at the Bank of Eufaula on Jan. 21, 2016, when a robber entered and took her hostage. Within 63 seconds of entering the building, Cedric Norris shot and killed Randy Peterson the bank’s president, and shot and wounded a bank teller who refused to go with him as his hostage.
Norris then turned to Huff and took her as a hostage. He forced her into an SUV, which police pursued in a chase. After police “disabled the vehicle,” Huff exited the car and ran into a nearby field, while Norris chased her and exchanged gunfire with officers, according to a report from Chickasha News.
While some police officers are cautious about firing at a suspect who is near an innocent hostage, the Oklahoma officers continued to fire bullets in Norris’ direction, even when he caught up to Huff, grabbed her around the neck, and used her as a human shield.
In a statement, Huff’s attorneys noted that even though police knew Huff was an innocent hostage, they shot intentionally and shot her numerous times with multiple weapons.
“The Law Enforcement officers knew Ms. Huff was an innocent hostage yet they deliberately shot her nine times. Not one of the nine bullets which hit Ms. Huff came from the kidnapper. All the bullets came from the law enforcement officers—one of whom shot her with an AR-15.”
The statement also criticized the Bank of Eufaula for failing “to have an armed security guard, which is in violation of proper banking standards.” It claimed that the bank “had multiple, unmonitored entrances and exits, which encouraged this armed robbery.”
The statement from Huff’s attorney’s concluded that she “was severely injured and has undergone many surgeries.” As a result, “Ms. Huff feels very lucky to be alive, but she has been permanently scarred and injured as a result of the failures of the Bank of Eufaula and the reckless and careless actions of law enforcement.”
Not only did law enforcement blatantly choose not to protect Huff during the incident, they also failed to protect the public from the threat posed by Cedric Norris. According to a report from the Associated Press, Norris had an extensive history of carrying out armed robberies, and he “had been released from a Texas prison despite having a 60-year sentence to serve in Oklahoma for robbery convictions in Tulsa and Creek counties.”
According to prosecutors in Creek County, Norris’ early release was a mistake that resulted from “miscommunication between Texas and Oklahoma.” However, his newfound freedom did not stop his robbery streak, and the getaway car he used to kidnap Huff was reportedly one he stole during another “violent robbery in Texas.”
While Norris was killed in the shootout with police, it remains to be seen whether any of the officers who were responsible for the horrific shooting that left Julie Huff disabled for the rest of her life will ever be held accountable for their actions.
It is also not the first time police have shot an innocent hostage.
As TFTP reported, On Feb 7, 2014, Matthew Serbus led police on a dangerous high-speed chase before crashing his car and taking Dawn Pfister as a hostage. Police would shoot Serbus as he held a knife to Pfister, then, walk up to Pfister and kill her too. The entire incident was recorded on a police dashcam.