Oyler charged with assault as fireworks issue gets pushy
A dispute between the United Tribe of Shawnee Indians and Johnson County officials regarding the sale of fireworks on tribal land turned violent last Thursday evening. Tribe member Jim Oyler, Jr. allegedly assaulted a county codes officer. He was arrested a day later.
According to Capt. Larry Jones of the Johnson County Sheriff's Department, codes officer Jerry Mallory went to Oyler's property, just east of Desoto, Thursday evening to serve him with a notice to appear in court for a violation of the county's fireworks ordinance. Oyler sold fireworks on his property despite an ordinance forbidding the sale or possession of them in the county. Oyler claims his property is Indian land and not part of the county. He claims he is therefore not bound by county ordinances.
County officials disagree, claiming that Oyler's tribe is not recognized by the federal government.
The county legal department mailed a letter to Oyler earlier this month, ordering him not to proceed with his plans to sell fireworks. Oyler had placed several signs along the tribe's property line on 83rd Street, advertising his intentions to do so.
According to Jones, Mallory claimed an altercation broke out shortly after he arrived at Oyler's home Thursday evening.
"Depending on which side of the story you want to listen to, there was some shoving and a gun was pulled out by Oyler," Jones said. "He apparently never took the gun out of the holster."
The court summons was not served and Oyler was not taken into custody at that time.
Jones said the matter was turned over to the district attorney and a warrant was issued for Oyler's arrest on Friday.
"He was charged with misdemeanor battering and criminal damage to property," Jones said. "Both offenses have fine and jail possibilities attached to them."
Jones said Oyler could be fined from $500 to $1500 and spend up to one year in jail if he was found guilty.
Oyler admits there was an altercation between himself and Mallory, but claims Mallory was the aggressor. He also denied he pulled out a gun.
"He asked me if I was Jim Oyler. I asked him who he was and he slapped me with the papers and his telephone," Oyler said. "When he pushed me, I spun around and hurt my back."
Oyler said Mallory came to his property Thursday looking for a fight.
"He came at me like a bull out of pen," he said. "I couldn't believe they would send him out here by himself. They must not like that guy very much."
Oyler said he heard Friday evening there was a warrant for his arrest and decided to turn himself in to avoid a confrontation on his property. He believed the county attempted to shut down the tribe's fireworks stand by "inventing" criminal charges against him, he said.
"They're trying to bootstrap me by tying a criminal matter to a civil one because they know they don't have civil jurisdiction," he said. "I'm going to go to court, plead innocent and see what happens. I'm sure you're going to see some lawsuits come out of this."
Oyler was detained by the officers for about two hours before posting $2,500 bond, he said. He returned home that night and opened the fireworks stand again Saturday morning.
"They didn't break my spirit," he said. "My spirit just keeps rising and rising with everything they do to me."
Oyler said he believed county officials were less concerned with his sale of fireworks than they were with what might follow, such as his hope to someday build a casino on his property.
"They want to stop us now because they don't want to see the casino and things like that," he said. "They're afraid of what's next."
County officials did not interfere with Oyler's sale of fireworks through the Fourth of July.