A city council member in Norman, Oklahoma, proposed a police budget cut. Then officers for that department posted her address online. Days later, a woman who lived in the other half of her duplex was raped by an assailant who allegedly made a political threat.
The attack was a case of retaliation and mistaken identity, the council member alleges.
Alexandra Scott, a Norman council member who won the Democratic nomination for her state Senate seat last month, is an outspoken critic of her city’s police force. When racial justice protests swept the nation in June, Scott proposed slashing the Norman Police budget by $4.5 million. During a city council meeting about defunding, she also discussed a stalking incident she experienced, which she said police handled improperly. Now a pair of Norman Police officers are under investigation for allegedly posting Scott’s personal information online, which Scott says may have led to the sexual assault of her neighbor.
Defunding the police is a fraught issue across the country, but especially in Norman, where police have made their disagreements with elected officials well known. Amid calls to slash the city’s police budget by millions, council members voted to reallocate $865,000 from the department. The move didn’t cut the police’s overall budget (it mostly vetoes the department’s requested raise, but keeps the department’s coffers at slightly above last year’s budget) but it was enough for the city’s police union to file a lawsuit against city council this month.
Scott’s criticism of Norman Police has made her a favorite villain in some pro-police circles in the city. A recent Facebook post shared by a Norman Police officer called her “another AOC,” in reference to the New York representative who has become a boogeyperson for conservatives.
That same police officer, John Barbour, is one of two under investigation for sharing Scott’s personal details shortly after her testimony on police defunding. In posts first reported by the Norman Transcript, Barbour made a Facebook post sharing an unredacted video of police responding to Scott’s 911 call in May. (Although details of the video remain unconfirmed, they align with Scott’s own testimony about calling 911 on a stalker that month.)
Neither Scott nor Norman Police returned The Daily Beast’s requests for comment. Barbour declined to comment, referring The Daily Beast to the Norman Police public information officer, as his case was under investigation. A spokesperson for the group Norman Citizens for Racial Justice said Scott’s address was identifiable in the post.
“After Alex shared her story of solidarity during that [city council] study session, an officer released an unredacted report and some footage of her making a police report fairly recently,” the spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “Those items that the officer uploaded to Facebook had her home address on there.”
When Barbour was met with criticism online for the video, he responded sarcastically. “So what I am getting is that if the issue was the officer let everyone see, but when someone slanders the fine officers on open record meeting it’s not ok to find out the proof,” he posted, apparently accusing Scott of being dishonest in her testimony.
Barbour removed the video but shared a recent police report (from when Scott was arrested at a recent protest) that contained her address. In comments viewed by The Daily Beast, Barbour accused Scott of participating in a riot. When commenters noted that “you can’t just call protesters rioters … There was no riot,” Barbour responded, “If you say so….but I bet state law says different.”
Another Norman Police officer, Michael Lauderback, appears to have also shared Scott’s personal information using the Facebook handle “Tired Ofthehate,” which was linked to his legal name. Lauderback posted a picture of a sexual assault report Scott made in 2015. Lauderback could not be reached for comment and appears to have since deleted his Facebook account.
Both officers are now under investigation for posting Scott’s personal information, the Norman Record reported. The police department noted that since Barbour claimed to have obtained the video from a third party who obtained it through a public records request, the officers’ posts appear to be legal.
But Scott and Norman Citizens for Racial Justice said the posts play into a larger culture of harassment that has emerged on Norman-centric social media. “Most of the targeting happened after we started advocating for defunding the police,” the Racial Justice spokesperson told The Daily Beast, noting that many people in her group were experiencing harassment from a “ReOpen Norman” Facebook page.
In a since-deleted Facebook post, Scott said that social media activity had led to real-world horror for her and a neighbor.
“People were passing around my address on social media (and wherever else) for 2 weeks & making light of my experiences with assault and stalking,” she wrote. “I’ve received threatening messages and voicemails from men stating they, ‘hoped I didn’t need the police’ when something happened.”
Scott claims those threats came to a head late last month. Her address, which was shared publicly, is in a duplex building. On June 27, someone broke into the other half of the duplex and assaulted Scott’s neighbor.
“She was raped by [a] stranger who broke into her side of our duplex last night. She had been out with her father, he dropped her off around Midnight and left. Then she was assaulted in her hallway,” Scott wrote in the now-deleted post. “Her rapist dug his elbow into her neck, pushed her into the wall, and told her ‘Maybe next time you’ll learn your lesson.’ He threw her on the ground and raped her.”
The attack, she said, was intended for her. “They got the wrong woman,” she wrote.
Norman Police released a statement acknowledging the incident and the prior publication of the address on social media although, in a heavily redacted police report obtained by the Transcript, the incident is described as a burglary.
Since Norman Police officers posted Scott’s address, it has circulated on right-wing Oklahoma pages, where it remains online.