Thousands of 911 calls received from Oklahoma City hotels
On Aug. 21, a housekeeper walked into a motel room at a Days Inn along Interstate 44 in Oklahoma City and found 24-year-old Megan Ashley Henson stabbed to death.
Two days later, police arrested David Earl Wayne Adair, 30, in connection with her slaying.
A few miles to the southwest at another Days Inn, on the night of Oct. 20, a woman told police that Ashley Tooklao had shoved her to the ground in her room, pulled down her dress and bra and stolen the cash stashed there.
Police arrested Tooklao on a robbery complaint.
Earlier this month, police arrested Casmarah Mimbs in room 243 at the Oaktree Inn and Suites, 1200 S Meridian Ave., on an outstanding Oklahoma County assault and battery and domestic abuse by strangulation warrants. Officers were tipped off that he'd rented a room there, according to a police report.
Those incidents are just three of the nearly 5,400 911 calls made from Oklahoma City hotels and motels in the past year. But four hotels along a stretch of Interstate 40 frontage on the city's west side demanded the most attention from officers.
Three — the Oaktree Inn and Suites, the Biltmore Hotel, and the Airport Motel 6 — sit within a half mile of each other along a strip of Meridian Avenue where a sea of free-standing signs advertise bars, strip shopping centers and fast-food restaurants and where newly built hotels rub shoulders with budget lodgings offering rooms for less than $40 a night. The fourth, the Green Carpet Inn, sits about a mile west, south of I-40 on S MacArthur Boulevard.
Between them, police responded more than 800 times to 911 calls from those four businesses, about 15 percent of the total number of calls to the 174 hotels and motels included in the analysis.
The Biltmore, 401 S Meridian Ave., topped the list with police responding 265 times to the hotel and surrounding lot between Aug. 1, 2016 and July 31, 2017, according to records obtained by The Oklahoman. The Green Carpet Inn logged 217 calls for assistance, Motel 6 made 207 and the Oaktree, 1200 S Meridian Ave., made 150.
K.C. Patel, owner and manager of the Green Carpet Inn, said the number of calls from his hotel are no surprise to him since he places many of them himself. He blames the high call volume on criminal activity committed by transients in the area.
"It was out of control, but it's gotten better in this past month," Patel said. "Every day, I had to call 5 times, 10 times. Come on, man. That's not good. "They're walking around, hanging around, searching through my trash cans, so I have to call the police."
'Meridian doesn't sleep'
For the better part of the past year and a half, Officer Travis Vernier spent from afternoon well into the early morning patrolling the Southwest division, including the Meridian hotel zone. He can offer plenty of wild tales about the area.
A couple having sex behind a hotel dumpster. A bank robbery suspect running into an abandoned hotel. A counterfeiting operation set up in a motel room that resulted in the seizure of dozens of fake IDs and documents.
He's seen plenty of the run-of-the-mill criminal activity too, such as drug use, prostitution, fights and robberies.
More often that not, Vernier can expect a Meridian Avenue call during most shifts.
"Meridian doesn't sleep for the most part," he said. "Even though there's hotels, there's a lot of traffic on or around Meridian at all hours of the night."
A mixture of clientele patronize the hotels, he said, from those in town on business to oil field workers to transients who have panhandled enough cash during the day to rent a room at night.
Will Rogers World Airport is just a few miles south, so the area draws people from not only across the country, but around the world, Vernier said.
Some of the hotels are extended stay, so people may rent low-cost rooms for weeks or months on end, he said.
"If you're part of the criminal underworld, an extended-stay hotel can kind of be an attractive plan to stay, so it's not too uncommon to come across people who are carrying out criminal activities from their hotel room," Vernier said.
TripAdvisor reviews echo police reports from hotels in the area. The Biltmore scores a 2.0 on the five-point TripAdvisor scale, with 184 of the 380 reviews rating the hotel as "terrible."
"Very scary," "Avoid at all costs," and "DO NOT STAY HERE!!!" are the headlines of three reviews of the Biltmore from the past six months.
A review posted in September 2016 is titled "I was stabbed."
"Prostitutes, drug dealers, and in the week I stayed here because they would not refund my money, several times the police were called. Even better on the last night's stay a random stranger was standing at the door and asked if i had a problem I said no, and he pulled out a knife and stabbed me — needless to say i would recommend this hotel to nobody," Justin K. wrote in a Sept. 27, 2016 review.
Similarly Oaktree reviews from recent years lead with attention-getters like, "Worst room ever!!" Oaktree received only 25 reviews, but earned a 1.5 rating.
Patel, who owns the Green Carpet Inn, said a police homeless outreach unit has lessened the number of recent 911 calls from his business.
"I've been here 15 years in this property, and the last six months were good," he said.
Patel said he often gets frustrated because those who are arrested or shooed away by police officers often return a day — or even a few hours — later.
"Cops are doing their job, but ... I have to call them again," Patel said. "I'm not a blaming person, but I'm trying my best."
"All the hotels, we work together. It's not good for the properties if prowlers come. It's worse than downtown now. Meridian is Oklahoma City's heart," he said.
G6 Hospitality, the company that operates Motel 6, said in a statement that police have asked hotel employees to call 911 as a preventive and proactive measure.
Those who answered phones at the Biltmore and the Oaktree declined to comment.
Most Oklahoma City hotels, especially larger ones, receive at least a dozen calls each year, regardless of quality, records show. Sixty calls for 911 service came from the Sheraton during the same time period, while the Skirvin Hilton made 36 such calls. But neither hotel's 911 calls involved the level of violence or number of property crimes that the lower-cost hotels did.
Likewise, the Meridian corridor isn't the only area where clusters of budget hotels prompt numerous 911 calls. Hotel corridors along I-44 in the center of the city and along Interstate 35 on the city's east side also log several dozen 911 calls a year.
Dispatchers categorize the majority of the calls to those hotels as "disturbances" or "domestic" incidents, but they also include auto theft, robbery, attempted suicides, homicides and police shootings.
As new hotels are built, some of the older, problematic businesses are being demolished or renovated. Whether that will have any effect on criminal activity in the area, Vernier, the police officer, isn't certain.
"I hope so," he said.