25 Years Later, Officer Wonders About Hostages
Twenty-five years ago, a cop killer who had escaped from prison in Florida came to Tulsa and held six employees hostage inside a grocery store. The police officer who negotiated for their lives now finds himself wondering what happened to those six people, whose lives, for just a moment, became entwined with his. News On 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright reports the case was later featured in a book and television show.
George Haralson has recently been taking stock of his 35 years in law enforcement and keeps coming back to this case, as a watershed moment in his life and for the lives he saved.
November 18th, 1982, Joseph Greer robbed McCartney's grocery store at 71st and Sheridan, told all the customers to leave, but took seven employees hostage in an office in the back of the store. Greer had escaped from Florida, while serving life for killing a cop.
"Joe shot him in the back of the head. Murdered him right there," said Tulsa County Sheriff's Chief Deputy George Haralson of Greer's crime in Florida.
During his crime in Tulsa, Greer used the employees as human shields and George Haralson was the first negotiator on the scene with seven years experience and six lives in his hands.
"To me, the safety of those people, those innocent employees was my responsibility. I was making $7- $8 hour then. One mistake. One word taken out of context, and he could've shot anyone," said Tulsa County Sheriff's Chief Deputy George Haralson.
Haralson spent six gut wrenching hours, talking to a killer like they were friends. They discussed the NFL strike, the price of groceries and what it would take for him to release the hostages. When Greer wanted sodas, Haralson demanded a hostage; a long distance call to Greer's mother got another, removing a smelly trash can was also worth a life. Finally, Greer wanted to say his peace on TV. Then a police officer, Haralson got a crash course in running a TV camera and went inside.
"Maybe someday down the line, someone will see what the Florida penal system is like. Even though you're in prison, you're a human being and have feelings, needs, wants," said Joseph Greer in his statement.
Finally, all hostages were freed and it was down to Haralson and Greer and a moment of truth.
"He said, ‘I'm going to die and go to hell tonight,'" said Tulsa County Sheriff's Chief Deputy George Haralson of Greer's comment.
Haralson feared they would both die because his gun was stuck under his bulletproof vest and Greer was screaming and pacing, like a trapped animal, and then, it happened.
"He's got the revolver pointed at me, brings it back, puts it here, brings it back down and puts it against his chest and pulls the trigger," said Tulsa County Sheriff's Chief Deputy George Haralson.
Greer died. And Haralson, who had been thinking of a career change, decided to stay in law enforcement and has walls filled with commendations for his service.
Haralson would like to find those six hostages to talk to them about how that night affected their lives and to see what they did with their next 25 years. They were Amy James, Laura Hart, Lois Gray, Chris Bagley, Debbie Berryman and Tracy Eaton.