Oklahoma bureau mulls sheriff's office probe after shooting

AP News
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Posted: May 14, 2015 1:27 PM

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma's top investigative agency is considering a district attorney's request to examine allegations of misconduct in the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, following the shooting of a restrained man by a volunteer deputy and the release of a 2009 memo that raised concerns about the adequacy of his training.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said in a news release Thursday that it will confer with "investigative and prosecutorial entities with jurisdiction in this case" before deciding whether to investigate.

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler told The Associated Press that he became concerned about the operations of the sheriff's office after the release of the memo that indicated officials had pressured critics within the agency to ignore volunteer Robert Bates' lack of training.

Bates has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the April 2 shooting death of Eric Harris, saying he mistook his weapon for a stun gun.

Kunzweiler declined to comment on what in the memo concerned him or what allegations of impropriety he wants state investigators to probe, and said he has been in contact with the bureau verbally and through the mail.

"Maintaining the integrity of an investigation is important and I will not comment further in regard to any investigation that may be taking place," he said.

Two top administrators in the sheriff's office have resigned and the agency's spokesman has been put on paid administrative leave in the fallout from the shooting. Sheriff Stanley Glanz announced that the reserve deputy program is temporarily suspended pending an internal review of the certification and training records of its 126 reservists. Glanz has said he will not step down.

In a May 6 letter from the district attorney to the OSBI requesting assistance with an investigation into potentially criminal violations at the sheriff's office, Kunzweiler said the 2009 memo "further cast a troubling light upon the reserve deputy program."

A spokesman for the sheriff's office didn't immediately return email and phone requests seeking comment Thursday.

The letter, which OSBI released to AP Thursday, also states that Kunzweiler's office initially contacted the bureau by phone on April 24 urging an investigation, but that the parties didn't meet to discuss the matter until May 1 due to scheduling conflicts.

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Reed reported from Little Rock, Arkansas.