ACLU Demands Tulsa County Sheriff Resign Amid Accusations Of Cronyism

Thursday, April 16th 2015, 3:17 pm
By: News On 6

The ACLU of Oklahoma has demanded that Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz resign following a reserve deputy-involved shooting, and the NAACP is calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene.

The sheriff's office is under fire after a reserve deputy killed ex-convict Eric Harris during an undercover sting on April 2.

ACLU leaders say that corruption, cronyism and a buy-a-badge concept is present under the watch of Glanz, which led to one of his personal friends and donors being brought on as a reserve deputy.

Bob Bates was a reserve deputy who TCSO said was working on the perimeter during the undercover sting on Harris. TCSO said Bates meant to pull his stun gun to subdue Harris, but he “inadvertently” pulled out his handgun and shot him in the back instead.

TCSO hired an independent consultant to investigate the shooting, and it concluded Bates' actions were not criminal but accidental. Three days later, the Tulsa County District Attorney charged Bates with second-degree manslaughter.

In a statement, the ACLU says Bates paid "to play cop" and the group is calling for an independent criminal investigation into Glanz, the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office and is demanding the sheriff's immediate resignation. Glanz is serving his seventh-consecutive term as county sheriff. He first took the position in January 1989.

Bates, 73, is a Tulsa insurance executive who has donated money, multiple cars and equipment to the sheriff's office, records show. He has been a reserve deputy since 2008 and was awarded reserve deputy of the year in 2011. He also served on the Violent Crimes Task Force.

“We have absolutely zero confidence that Sheriff Glanz has the capacity or willingness to restore trust between his office and the people the Sheriff is elected to serve,” ACLU Executive Director Ryan Kiesel said in a statement released on Thursday. “From a buy a badge program that placed a wealthy friend and donor on a violent crimes task force, leading to the brutal and senseless death of Eric Harris, to fostering a culture among his deputies that led to the barbaric and dehumanizing treatment of Mr. Harris as he lay dying on the pavement... enough is enough.”

During the sting, after Harris completed a gun sale to another undercover deputy, he jumped out of the vehicle and ran from investigators, video shows.

Bates was one of the deputies on the perimeter of the sting in a containment position, TCSO said. As Harris ran into his area, Bates yelled a warning to other deputies that he was going to use his Taser, TCSO said.

Bates fired one shot, dropped his gun in the next second, then he can be heard immediately apologizing on video.

In a statement he made right after the shooting, Bates said he dropped the gun because the recoil startled him since, in his mind, he used his Taser.

The independent consultant hired by TCSO told media last week Bates was a victim of a theory called “slips and capture,” which a doctor explains as the brain slipping in high-stress situations and doing the opposite of what it thinks it is doing.

As shown in video released by the sheriff's office, other deputies struggled with Harris as he was on the ground. TCSO claims the deputies were not aware Harris had been shot instead of tasered, so they were trying to gain control of him as they exchanged profanities and held him down, all while Harris was shouting he'd been shot.

On video, Harris can be heard saying that he couldn't breathe, to which another undercover officer trying to gain control of him responded: "F--k your breath!"

TCSO said Harris, after the shooting, admitted to paramedics he was under the influence of PCP. TCSO said Harris was unarmed at the time he was shot, but deputies claim they didn't know that because Harris hadn't been searched since he ran from the arrest.

According to TCSO Capt. Billy McKelvey, Bates is involved with tactical operations routinely with the sheriff's office.

Investigators have said Bates had more than enough training to be considered advanced -- which is classified as a reserve who has a minimum of 320 hours of training.

The ACLU's legal director, Brady Henderson, pointed to reports that have surfaced since the shooting, saying the sheriff's office attempted to falsify Bates' training records.

It points to a “clear pattern of corruption,” Henderson said. “… Such actions are inexcusable, dangerous, and illegal. As a result, Eric Harris is dead, and Oklahomans' ability to trust its law enforcement officials is severely wounded.”

The ACLU said despite the criminal investigation into Bates' involvement in the shooting, it is still asking for Glanz to resign immediately because “the culture of corruption that he created has disgraced his office, betrayed the public trust, and resulted in the senseless and illegal killing of an unarmed man."

The trust has been broken, the group says.

“Any one of these instances on its own raises grave doubts about the sheriff's ability to head one of the largest law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma, but taken together, they represent an intolerable and dangerous lack of leadership,” Kiesel said.

Bates was booked into jail on Monday and immediately posted the $25,000 bond for his release.

"We are going to defend this in a court of law, and when he has a chance to speak at the conclusion of this case, he will do so," Bates' attorney Clark Brewster said.

Brewster did publicly defend Bates' record of donating money and equipment to the sheriff's office. His last donation was in 2011, records show.

"They've taken the fact this man has been good to the community, has been benevolent to the community, and has been a great citizen to our town and made it something bad, or sinister, and that's the unfortunate thing," Brewster said.

In a statement the Harris family released earlier this week, they said Glanz is disconnected to what they believe is a deep-seated problem.

"The way in which Eric was treated by TCSO, and Sheriff Glanz's failure to recognize the problem, increases the disconnect between law enforcement and ordinary citizens," the family said.

The NAACP released a statement on Thursday, calling for a meeting with the DOJ and state attorney general, because it feels charges should be brought against all deputies who contributed to the “inhumane and malicious treatment after [Harris] was shot,” and the alleged refusal to provide immediate medical attention to him.

“What has happened to [Harris] is totally inexcusable, and shows another example of excessive force being use by police officers,” the NAACP of Oklahoma said in a statement. “It is time for Oklahoma Attorney General to stand up with the [citizens] of Oklahoma and put an end to the killings of unarmed African-Americans and a matter of fact the killings of all these unarmed individuals of all races nationwide.”

The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office says it is conducting an internal review of its reserve deputy program and also has asked the FBI to investigate.

More stories on the Eric Harris shooting:

4/2/2015 Related Story: Man Dies After Tulsa County Deputy-Involved Shooting

4/3/2015 Related Story:Deputy Reached For Taser, 'Inadvertently' Fired Gun In Fatal Shooting, Sheriff's Office Says

4/9/2015 Related Story: Family Of Man Fatally Shot By Tulsa Reserve Deputy Wants Video Released

4/10/2015 Related Story: Tulsa Sheriff's Office Releases Video, Details Of Deputy-Involved Shooting

4/11/2015 Related Story: Tulsa County Sheriff's Office Releases Video Of Deputy-Involved Shooting

4/13/2015 Related Story: Family Of Man Killed By Reserve Deputy Calls Shooting 'Evil'

4/13/2014 Related Story: Reserve Deputy Charged With Manslaughter In Eric Harris Death

4/14/2015 Related Story: Group Gathers In Downtown Tulsa To Protest Fatal Shooting

4/14/2015 Related Story: Tulsa Reserve Deputy Turns Himself In For Manslaughter

4/14/2015 Related Story: Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Charged With Manslaughter Bonds Out Of Jail

4/14/2015 Related Story: Harris Family Releases Statement After Tulsa Reserve Deputy Bonds Out

4/15/2015 Related Story: Statement Given By Tulsa Reserve Deputy After Fatal Shooting Released