The Oklahoma Bar Association has declined to take up an ethics complaint that had been filed against Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler just days before the high-profile trial of former Police Officer Betty Shelby was set to begin.
Jerad Lindsey, chairman of the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police, told The Frontier in an interview Monday that he had received a letter from the Bar Association telling him his complaint against Kunzweiler would not be looked into.
“It was pretty short, just a couple of paragraphs,” Lindsey said of the Bar Association response. “It wasn’t very in-depth, it just said that if we had a problem with a district attorney, we should speak to the Oklahoma Attorney General.”
Lindsey said he had not reached out to Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter.
“Just haven’t had the time,” he said.
Kunzweiler had previously called into question the timing of the ethics complaint, given that it was filed less than a week before the Shelby trial began.
Shelby was charged last September with first-degree manslaughter for shooting Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man, during an encounter in north Tulsa. Kunzweiler announced the charges one day before TPD Homicide Unit Sgt. Dave Walker was set to give Kunzweiler the full report on the shooting.
In the complaint, the Tulsa FOP alleged Kunzweiler rushed to charge Shelby before having reviewed all of the evidence and prior to the completion of a Tulsa Police Department investigation, which the FOP said found the shooting justified.
Kunzweiler said he was getting information from TPD on a daily basis, and that he had enough information to feel comfortable charging Shelby even without the full report. When the charge was filed, the arrest affidavit was written not by Walker, but by District Attorney’s Office Investigator Doug Campbell.
Shelby was eventually acquitted following six days of testimony, though a juror later told The Frontier the jury all agreed Shelby should not return to patrol work with TPD. Shelby eventually returned to the police force, though she was given a desk job “for her safety,” according to TPD Chief Chuck Jordan.
Shelby resigned from TPD last week.
When the complaint was filed, Kunzweiler called it “a distraction” and said that he was “not happy about” the fact that it might interfere with the Shelby trial.
Kunzweiler confirmed Monday that he had received notice from the Bar Association that it would not be looking into the complaint.
“The Bar Association’s decision speaks for itself,” he said in a message to The Frontier. “My focus and attention remains as it has for the past 28 years — concentrated upon securing public safety on the cases which are in front of me.”
Nevertheless, Lindsey defended the timing of — and decision to file — the complaint, saying that he felt it “had the desired effect.”
“We were critical of Steve because we felt he had rushed to file that charge and that he should have waited to get all the information and all the reports,” Lindsey said, noting that Walker’s investigation determined no charges should have been filed against Shelby.
Lindsey referenced the July 4 fireworks stand shooting in which 32-year-old Johnny Mize Jr. was charged with first-degree manslaughter for killing 15-year-old Jake Ulrich following an alleged fireworks theft.
Mize was interviewed following the shooting, but was not arrested until last Friday.
“In that case, Steve waited until all the reports were in before he made what was probably a difficult decision to file a manslaughter charge,” Lindsey said. “So I do feel (the ethics complaint) had the desired effect of getting (Kunzweiler) to wait on all the evidence, or at least an arrest affidavit written by the person who was investigating the crime.”