Oklahoma Attorney General assigns new prosecutor to sheriff probe

Reuters News
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Posted: May 21, 2015 1:27 AM

(Reuters) - Oklahoma's Attorney General said on Wednesday he was assigning an outside prosecutor to the probe of the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, which has been embroiled in controversy since a reserve deputy fatally shot a black suspect last month.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt said the Tulsa County prosecutor had moved to recuse himself from the case due to a perceived conflict. Pruitt said he appointed Okmulgee County District Attorney Rob Barris to handle the case.

"The integrity of the investigative process is central to the administration of justice," Tulsa County District Attorney Kunzweiler said in a statement.

Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, 73, was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of 44-year-old Eric Harris, who was unarmed, during an April 2 arrest. He pleaded not guilty.

Bates, a white insurance executive, has said he mistakenly fired his handgun instead of his Taser.

The shooting prompted investigations into whether Bates received special treatment due to his donations to the department and his personal ties to Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz.

Undersheriff Tim Albin resigned late last month following the publication of documents in which subordinates said they felt pressured to support Bates' inadequate training records.

Harris' killing, which was captured on a shocking video, reignited a national outcry over police violence against minorities sparked by police killings of unarmed black men in cities across the country including Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and North Charleston, South Carolina, over the past year.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Paul Tait)