TULSA, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma sheriff forced a former high-ranking sheriff's official to "take the hit" and resign following the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white reserve deputy whose qualifications subsequently came under heavy scrutiny, a federal lawsuit claims.
According to the lawsuit filed Thursday, former Tulsa County Sheriff's Maj. Tom Huckeby says then-Sheriff Stanley Glanz went so far as to issue a veiled threat against Huckeby's son, who also worked at the agency, and told the elder Huckeby that he should keep that in mind before deciding whether to resign.
Volunteer deputy Robert Bates fatally shot Eric Harris in a Tulsa street in 2015. Bates, who went fishing with Glanz and donated generously to the sheriff's department, said he became muddled and had intended to fire a stun gun, not his firearm.
Worried about "racial issues" and myriad questions from news outlets in the days that followed, Glanz told Huckeby he needed to "take the hit" to "get the media off our backs," according to the suit that seeks more than $75,000 in damages.
Huckeby also claims Glanz fretted about a 2009 internal report that was leaked to reporters by the Harris family's attorneys. The report seriously questioned whether Bates was qualified to be a reserve deputy.
Bates, a wealthy insurance executive, had donated thousands of dollars in cash and equipment to the sheriff's office. Questions over whether Bates got special treatment because of his close relationship to Glanz led to a grand jury investigation and Glanz's indictment.
"Simply put, defendant Glanz and (the sheriff's office) made plaintiff, and others, out to be their 'scapegoat' for the Bates shooting in order to deflect blame from the defendants," the 13-page claim states.
Bates was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced last year to four years in prison. Glanz left the agency after being indicted and was sentenced last year to a one-year suspended term on misdemeanor charges stemming from the indictment, including his refusal to make public the report questioning Bates' qualifications.
Huckeby's attorney, Eric Stall, said Friday that his client's reputation was severely damaged in the law enforcement community, diminishing his chances of finding new work.
"It's lost retirement, salary, I think he even lost his house over the deal," Stall said.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Casey Roebuck declined to comment on the allegations Friday due to the pending lawsuit, and said it involved allegations that "occurred under the previous administration."
It wasn't immediately clear who was representing Glanz in the latest suit.
Huckeby was one of several top-ranking officials who left the agency in the months following the Harris shooting.
One of the officials, ex-Maj. Shannon Clark, settled with the county for $150,000 after filing a wrongful termination claim, claiming he was wrongly blamed for leaking the internal report on Bates.