TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A judge quickly scheduled a hearing Wednesday after a grand jury submitted sealed findings as part of its investigation into an Oklahoma sheriff’s office that came under fire when a volunteer deputy shot an unarmed man.
Grand jurors notified Judge Rebecca Nightingale that they had completed their report on the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office after meeting behind closed doors for several weeks and interviewing more than 30 witnesses, including the sheriff. The judge said the findings — contained in sealed envelopes — would be made public at a hearing Wednesday afternoon.
The grand publically submitted a list of eight recommendations, including that the sheriff’s office improve its training and documentation, including better accountability of field training hours. It also suggests that the office’s internal affairs department be more autonomous.
The recommendations appear to address a leaked 2009 memo that questioned the training of reserve deputy Robert Bates, who fatally shot Eric Harris when Harris was restrained in a Tulsa street after he was caught up in an alleged illegal gun-sales sting. Bates — who has said he mistook his handgun for a stun gun — has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter.
But the panel also gave Nightingale several sealed envelopes with its findings, which could include more recommendations or a decision on whether criminal charges are warranted.
Bates is a longtime friend of Tulsa Sheriff Staley Glanz, and he had donated thousands of dollars in cash, cars and equipment to the sheriff’s office. His close ties to Glanz and the agency raised questions about the reserve deputy program and whether Bates and others received special treatment in return for the gifts.
Thousands of residents called for a grand jury investigation after the fatal shooting. Bates has since left the sheriff’s office.
The leaked 2009 memo alleged that top sheriff’s office officials knew Bates was inadequately trained, but pressured other officers to look away.
Jurors heard testimony from a corporal in the internal affairs division, Warren Crittenden, who claimed he was pressured to sign off on memos saying Bates was qualified for duty.
Crittenden told investigators in the 2009 memo that he feared he’d be transferred if he didn’t OK paperwork stating that Bates had completed his training at 328 hours, which violated policy requiring 480 hours of training, according to the report.
The jury also has heard from sheriff’s corporal Bill Adams, who called the memo “very accurate,” and said that Glanz could have done more to address its findings.
Both Crittenden and Adams also have left the agency.