Oklahoma bureau mulls sheriff's office probe after shooting
May. 14, 2015
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma's top investigative agency is considering a district attorney's request to examine allegations of misconduct in the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, following the shooting of a restrained man by a volunteer deputy and the release of a 2009 memo that raised concerns about the adequacy of his training.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said in a news release Thursday that it will confer with "investigative and prosecutorial entities with jurisdiction in this case" before deciding whether to investigate.
Jessica Brown, a spokeswoman for the agency, declined to give details about how that decision would be made, but she said the agency can decline a request and has done so in the past to avoid "duplicating services."
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler told The Associated Press that he became concerned about the operations of the sheriff's office after the release of the memo that indicated officials had pressured critics within the agency to ignore volunteer Robert Bates' lack of training.
Bates has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the April 2 shooting death of Eric Harris, saying he confused his stun gun and handgun. Bates is white and Harris was black, but the victim's brother has said he does not believe race played a role in the shooting.
Kunzweiler declined to say what concerned him about the memo or what allegations of impropriety he wants state investigators to examine, and said he has been in contact with the bureau verbally and through the mail.
"Maintaining the integrity of an investigation is important and I will not comment further in regard to any investigation that may be taking place," he 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. Sheriff Stanley Glanz said the reserve deputy program has been temporarily suspended pending an internal review of the certification and training records of its 126 reservists.
Glanz, who is a member of the OSBI's board of commissioners, has refused calls to resign as sheriff, but said he wouldn't seek re-election next year.
He said in a statement Thursday that his office will cooperate fully with the OSBI.
"I have complete confidence and trust in the OSBI and in my employees and am convinced there will be no criminal wrongdoing uncovered," Glanz said.
Brown said Glanz's serving on the board shouldn't prevent the agency from investigating.
"It's certainly something that people are going to consider but we're going to do our job regardless of who is on the board," Brown said. "We wouldn't do it any differently."
In a May 6 letter from the district attorney to the OSBI requesting assistance with an investigation into potentially criminal violations at the sheriff's office, Kunzweiler said the 2009 memo "further cast a troubling light upon the reserve deputy program."
The letter, which OSBI released to AP Thursday, also states that Kunzweiler's office initially contacted the bureau by phone on April 24 urging an investigation, but that the parties didn't meet to discuss the matter until May 1 due to scheduling conflicts.
Brown said it's unclear when the agency might decide whether to investigate.
Messages left with the attorney of Harris' family seeking comment on the potential probe were not immediately returned Thursday.
Reed reported from Little Rock, Arkansas.