Grand jury probe sought for Tulsa County Sheriff's Office

AP News
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Posted: May 06, 2015 6:55 PM

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A civil rights group asked Wednesday for a grand jury investigation of the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office after a volunteer deputy fatally shot an unarmed man during a sting operation last month.

We The People Oklahoma filed a 17-page petition in district court asking for an investigation into whether Sheriff Stanley Glanz neglected his duties and whether reserve deputies who gave gifts to Glanz or his administrators were given special treatment.

The volunteer deputy, 73-year-old Robert Bates, is a friend of Glanz who has donated tens of thousands of dollars in cash and equipment to the sheriff's office. Bates is charged with second-degree manslaughter in the April 2 shooting death of Eric Harris.

Bates has pleaded not guilty and says he confused his handgun and stun gun after Harris ran from authorities during a sting operation involving gun sales. Bates is white and Harris was black, but the victim's brother has said he does not believe race played a role in the shooting.

Under state law, a judge has four days to review the petition and, if found sufficient, We The People Oklahoma will then have 45 days to collect 5,000 signatures from registered voters in Tulsa County to authorize an order impaneling the grand jury.

"This is our only recourse," said We The People Oklahoma organizer Marq Lewis, speaking at a news conference near the courthouse steps Wednesday. "We had hoped in four weeks, Stanley Glanz would have decided to step down." Lewis was flanked by several protesters — one holding a sign reading "Fire Stanley Glanz."

The embattled Glanz, who first took office in 1989, said Monday that he won't step down because of the shooting, but that he also won't seek re-election next year. Glanz has declined repeated interview requests from The Associated Press, and his spokesman did not return messages seeking comment on the petition Wednesday.

Last week, Glanz ordered that reserve deputies with the office could no longer patrol alone and that his office would temporarily limit its reserves while it audits the training records of its 126 reserve deputies.

The review followed the release of internal memos from 2009 that indicated officers were worried that Bates hadn't completed required training and that administrators were silencing criticisms of the volunteer.

But attorneys for Harris' family and activists have said last week's internal review came too late.

"If deputy Bates was trained, I believe Eric Harris would be alive at this time," Lewis said Wednesday after the petition was filed.

Bates' attorney, Clark Brewster, said he welcomed a wider investigation.

"I've always been a believer that more information is better to have in making any decision," he said Wednesday. "I think one of the things we should all strive for is what we can do differently and what we can do it better."