Once open to grand jury scrutiny, Tulsa sheriff fighting it

AP News
Posted: Jun 27, 2015 10:48 AM
Once open to grand jury scrutiny, Tulsa sheriff fighting it

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — When a group began gathering signatures calling for a grand jury investigation into embattled Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz and his agency, his spokesman declared the sheriff would be open to such a review and a chance to finally tell his side of the story "in a room that's closed to the public with the district attorney and 12 citizens."

Yet, the 50-year law enforcement veteran will ask a judge Tuesday to throw out the successful petition signed by 6,647 citizens, another sign of mounting calls for his ouster since an ex-volunteer deputy — and friend of Glanz — fatally shot an unarmed man during a sting operation in April.

The sheriff alleges the petition form was misleading to would-be signees and didn't specify all of the allegations against him. Meanwhile, civil rights leaders and family members of shooting victim Eric Harris questioned why the sheriff appears to be backtracking.

"Glanz is afraid because he has no control; he has control over everything else but not the grand jury," said Marq Lewis, an organizer with We The People Oklahoma, the group that collected the signatures and has called for Glanz's resignation. "The whole entire office is afraid."

Former reserve deputy Robert Bates, 73, says he confused his handgun with his stun gun when he fatally shot Harris on April 2. Harris was black, Bates is white, but Harris' family has said they don't believe race played a role.

Weeks later, a 2009 memo leaked that raised concerns about the training for Bates, who has donated tens of thousands of dollars in equipment, vehicles and cash to the sheriff's office. He has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter, waived his preliminary hearing and is due in court July 6.

The grand jury petition calls for an investigation into whether Glanz neglected his duties and whether reservists who gave gifts to the sheriff were given special treatment. Already, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the shooting and a Texas-based firm has been hired by the county to audit the agency. The reserve deputy program has also been temporarily shelved while the training records of all 126 reserves are reviewed.

Terry Simonson, a spokesman for the sheriff, parries criticism that Glanz has cowered from the scrutiny of a grand jury, and called the process "unnecessary and a huge waste of taxpayer money."

"No public official in his or her right mind welcomes a grand jury. Who could think that except someone who doesn't understand it?" Simonson said. "The sheriff in no way, shape or form is afraid of the grand jury. He just doesn't agree with Lewis' demand."

Lewis said a grand jury was the only recourse he and others had after Glanz refused to step down.

"What we're seeing here is how the people who are in power are taking advantage of the system; the citizens have gone out and done what they were supposed to have done," Lewis said. "We have followed every code of the law and you still see the people being railroaded again, you still see this."