Outside prosecutor to investigate Tulsa sheriff's office

AP News
|
Posted: May 20, 2015 5:59 PM

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma's attorney general on Wednesday appointed a prosecutor to investigate the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, which has faced scrutiny since a volunteer sheriff's deputy fatally shot a restrained suspect last month.

Questions have arisen about the reserve deputy program since volunteer deputy Robert Bates shot Eric Harris, who was unarmed, on April 2. Bates has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter and says he confused his stun gun and handgun.

Since the shooting, an attorney for Harris' family has released a 2009 memo in which several Sheriff's Office members raised concerns about the performance and training of Bates, a long-time friend of Sheriff Stanley Glanz who has donated tens of thousands of dollars in cash and equipment to the Sheriff's Office. Bates also was Glanz' campaign manager during the 2012 election.

The Oklahoma attorney general named Okmulgee County District Attorney Rob Barris to lead the investigation. The attorney general acted after Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler asked that someone else be appointed to investigate. Kunzweiler said he wanted to avoid any perception of a conflict in investigating the Sheriff's Office.

"In order to protect the integrity of the investigative process and to assure the objectivity of any decisions which may flow from that investigative process, I believe the recusal of my office is necessary," Kunzweiler said.

Two top administrators in the Sheriff's Office have resigned and the agency's spokesman has been put on paid administrative leave since the shooting. Glanz said the reserve deputy program has been temporarily suspended pending an internal review of the certification and training records of its 126 reservists.

Dan Smolen, an attorney for Harris' family, welcomed Wednesday's decision.

Terry Simonson, a spokesman for the sheriff, also agreed with the selection and reiterated that his office "(remained) certain that the newly appointment prosecutor will find that no laws have been broken by the sheriff in a matter that is now 6 years old."

Separately, a local civil rights group is petitioning for a grand jury to investigate whether Glanz neglected his duties and whether reservists who gave gifts to the sheriff were given special treatment.