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The work of Native artist Robby McMurtry

Native Artist Robby McMurtry Fatally Shot by Deputy

Wilhelm Murg

Robby McMurtry, who was of Comanche descent, was a pillar of the community in the small town of Morris, Oklahoma. He was an acclaimed gallery artist who painted an iconic mural for the city’s library, a published author who created graphic novels, and a popular teacher who taught art to a generation of citizens at the local high school. His status made it all the more shocking when sheriff’s deputies fatally shot him in self-defense. 

Robby McMurty, Native artist, shot by deputy in his own home.On Wednesday August 1, the Okmulgee Sherriff’s Department responded to a call about McMurtry, 61, who was alone at the home he shared with his wife. The caller, identified simply as “a family member” by Sherriff Eddy Rice, indicated that McMurtry was suicidal.

Two deputies, Chief Investigator Michael Stacy and Investigator Smokey Patchin, “found the screen door open, looked in, yelled for him; no answer,” Rice said.

One of the officers spotted McMurtry in the yard; he had a machete with him. They attempted to talk with him, but McMurtry became more agitated and ran at the deputies. One deputy attempted to Taser McMurtry, but apparently he didn’t make a good connection. The other deputy had his gun drawn and shot McMurtry. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

“We train for monsters,” Rice said. “We train for serial killers, we train for people that murder people; we don’t train for schoolteachers. If it had been a criminal we were dealing with, they would have never got that close—never.

“He was every person in the county’s art teacher, including my wife,” Rice continued. “It just went bad.”

The two deputies involved both knew McMurtry, and one was a former student of his. They are both on administrative leave while the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation investigates the shooting, which is routine when an officer kills someone in the line of duty.

Painting by acclaimed Native artist Robby McMurtry (Source: Facebook)Fellow artist Murv Jacob was a friend of McMurtry’s; they had a two-man show at the Tulsa Indian Art Market last fall.

“Robby was among the best known artists here in Indian country,” Jacob said. “His paintings, drawings, and novels always captured that Okie flavor that is so oft misconstrued by outsiders. To say his work was romantic would be a laughable understatement.”

McMurtry’s last published work was the graphic novel The Road to Medicine Lodge: Jesse Chisholm in the Indian Nation.

RELATED: Picture Perfect: The Graphic Novel as Vehicle for Nonfiction

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vickitrusselli's picture
Submitted by vickitrusselli on
robby really looks like a sweet guy and not the type to run after sheriffs with a machete. hmmmm? investigate for sure. what a loss as he was a very talented artist.....this is very sad.

talyn's picture
Submitted by talyn on
If the account given is accurate, then it sounds like he was facing demons he couldn't handle. It is a tragedy, and a terrible loss. I hope he has found some measure of peace now.

bertkaulaity's picture
Submitted by bertkaulaity on
Seems like the officer could have used his combat training in stead of brute force, Mr. Mc Murtry photo appears to be of a genteel man, sorry for your lose Mc Murtry family.

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
Here we go again! These commando's with badges. They have no sense anymore it seems. This should have had a totally different outcome had these officers used some common sense first. That didn't include holding a gun with a hair-trigger finger itching to pull the trigger. This is exactly what we get with the swat team approach we see these law enforcement individuals being trained by former Special Ops trainers. This is just wrong folks! Whatever happened to dealing with people with some common sense? What happened to being human first & show compassion to others in crisis? When did this start happening? What a loss to our native community, his family & those who cared for this man.

kevin pipes's picture
kevin pipes
Submitted by kevin pipes on
Sad beyond...I am writing this while sitting in the reflection of my favorite painting. For lack of a title we named it the "star shirt" features a pink-eyed albino appaloosa with a strong-faced native american cowboy wearing a cobalt-blue shirt covered with stars. Behind him is a cobalt night sky covered with a myriad of white starlights. Of course he is wearing the trademark McMurtry cowboy hat. I met him several times over the years at gallery and calendar events. I hope he knew he was a gift to those of us who connected with his style and ability. I regret I did not take the opportunity to know him.

Adail Gonzalez's picture
Adail Gonzalez
Submitted by Adail Gonzalez on
I have an 3x3 or 4x4 original oil painting by Robby, are there any interested parties out there... contact me at adailangel@gmail.com