Court allows grand jury probe into Tulsa sheriff's office
Jul. 16, 2015
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Thursday refused to delay a grand jury investigation into the Tulsa sheriff's office after a former volunteer deputy fatally shot an unarmed and restrained man in April.
It paves the way for a grand jury to assemble Monday in Tulsa district court to begin investigating whether Sheriff Stanley Glanz neglected his duties and whether reservists who gave gifts to the sheriff — including Robert Bates, who fatally shot Eric Harris on April 2 — were given special treatment. The court ruled 7-0, court referee Greg Albert said.
The petition calling for the probe, circulated by We the People Oklahoma, was signed by more than 6,600 voters; only 5,000 signatures were required.
Attorneys for Glanz tried to block the grand jury from meeting, initially arguing in district court that the petition drive didn't comply with state laws governing the collection of signatures and that would-be signees were misled because a 33-page summary of specific allegations against the sheriff wasn't attached to the signature pages. District Judge Rebecca Nightingale rejected that argument and ordered the grand jury to assemble. The attorneys for Glanz quickly appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
A spokesman for Glanz did not immediately return messages seeking comment on the decision Thursday.
Harris had been restrained after running from authorities during a sting involving gun sales. Bates, who has claimed he mistook his handgun for a stun gun, has pleaded not guilty to a second-degree manslaughter charge and will face a jury trial in February. Weeks after the shooting, a 2009 memo was leaked that raised concerns about the training for Bates, a friend of Glanz who has donated tens of thousands of dollars in equipment, vehicles and cash to the sheriff's office.
"This is a win for team Tulsa County," petition drive organizer Marq Lewis said at a Thursday afternoon news conference in his attorney's law office in downtown Tulsa. "This is what can happen if we believed, and that's what we did: we believed."
Lewis was flanked by supporters, many wearing bright T-shirts with "#GlanzGottaGo" on them.
"This gives the public the willpower to believe in themselves and the system," Lewis said. "And now, the system's working for them. And we're a testament to that."
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.