It’s hard to argue against 2016 being perhaps the newsiest year in recent memory. From a presidential election, to a mayoral election, to a large tax package, voters here were busier than ever.
And in court, Tulsans saw one law enforcement officer convicted for an on-duty killing while another was charged with a separate slaying. And the county’s former sheriff was convicted of crimes that ended his nearly three-decade run as the county’s top cop.
And that wasn’t all. As the stories below show, 2016 was a monumental year on all fronts.
Bates and Glanz convicted
The final chapter of the political drama surrounding the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office concluded with the criminal convictions of volunteer Reserve Deputy Robert Bates and longtime Sheriff Stanley Glanz.
Bates was a wealthy booster and friend of the sheriff’s who fatally shot an unarmed man, Eric Harris, in 2015 although Harris was already subdued by other officers. Glanz was convicted of withholding a report concluding that Bates had received favorable treatment within TCSO.
Bates, who said he accidentally shot Harris, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to the maximum four years in prison. Glanz pleaded no contest to willful neglect of duty and guilty to refusal to perform official duty and received a suspended sentence.
Bartlett out as mayor, Bynum elected
While the nation obsessed over the presidential election, voters also decided important local races during 2016. Mayor Dewey Bartlett was denied his bid for a third term, as challenger G.T. Bynum cruised to an easy win.
Bynum’s great, great grandfather, R. N. Bynum, was Tulsa’s second mayor way back in 1898. Bynum’s grandfather, Robert LaFortune (1970-1978), and his cousin, Bill LaFortune (2002-2006), have also served as mayor.
Donald Trump rallies in Tulsa
Back in a time when most political pundits were still not taking Trump seriously as a candidate, The Frontier profiled the people who attended the businessman’s rally at Oral Roberts University.
Unlike the image most people had of potential Trump voters as being wealthy aristocrats, the attendees at the rally were mostly salt-of-the-earth people who said Trump appealed to them because he was different than any presidential candidate they’d ever seen.
Voters in April went to the polls and favored a nearly $1 billion tax renewal package. The proposal will eventually spend $272 million on public safety; $102 million for transportation; and $510.6 million for economic development over a 15-year period. In the lead-up to the vote, The Frontier posted more than 30 videos detailing each individual proposal.
Earthquakes continue to rock Oklahoma
Although the total number of earthquakes began to level off in 2016, the state experienced an uptick in stronger quakes.
On Sept. 3, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck the Pawnee area, the strongest in recorded state history. That was followed by a 5.0 earthquake on Nov. 7 that damaged buildings and homes in and around Cushing’s downtown.
Lawsuits seeking class-action status continued to pile up against energy companies that are allegedly triggering the earthquakes by injecting large amounts of wastewater in fault zones.
Elliott Williams story goes viral five years after his death
Elliott Williams’ case gained national attention after a federal judge ruled against the current and former sheriffs’ motion to dismiss the suit by Williams’ estate. The judge also ruled that jail videos depicting Williams’ slow death after suffering a broken neck in the jail are admissible in the case.
A story about the case on The Frontier’s website drew more than half a million views from people across the nation as well as hundreds of shares and likes on social media.
“Matt Damon — get me out of here!”
Perennial mayoral candidate Paul Tay wasn’t invited to a debate on June 1 so he rushed the stage during closing remarks. Our man Kevin Canfield acted quickly to capture what happened next on video. As Tay ranted, Mayor Dewey Bartlett fumbled with his phone trying to call 911 and candidate G.T. Bynum watched with a bemused expression on his face.
Finally, a 23-year-old cameraman with a striking resemblance to actor Matt Damon stepped up to escort Tay off the stage.
“C’mon, Matt Damon — get me out of here!”’ Tay yelled before leaving the set. The Internet lost its mind for a few days.
Terence Crutcher shot / Officer Betty Shelby charged
The videotaped fatal police shooting of Terence Crutcher drew nationwide attention and sparked days of protests. Prosecutors charged Officer Betty Shelby with first-degree manslaughter.
After the shooting, a legal battle ensued between Crutcher’s parents and the mother of his children over control of his estate.
Frontier/NewsOn6 investigation: Blake Ewing’s tax troubles revealed
Seated on a bar stool at The Fur Shop — his hip, downtown Tulsa nightspot — City Councilor Blake Ewing told citizens gathered around the stage why they should vote for the Vision Tulsa sales tax proposal. But while Ewing was asking Tulsans gathered at The Fur Shop to approve Vision Tulsa, his business hadn’t paid the state nearly $40,000 in sales and beverage taxes collected at the same bar during the two years before the meeting, records show.
Our investigation into Ewing’s tax issues turned up several Ewing-owned businesses that had failed to pay sales and beverage taxes for years.
Frontier/Newson6 investigation: Officers buying rank by paying supervisors to retire early
An investigation by The Frontier discovered the unofficial Tulsa Police Department practice of officers paying supervisors to retire early. Known inside TPD as “buying rank,” the practice allowed officers who were ready for promotion to assume their new rank, and pay increase, sooner than they would have if the supervisors stayed on duty. The city declared that the practice violated the city’s ethics code, and Mayor Dewey Bartlett signed an order banning “buying rank,” though he later said he would not investigate the department for the tradition.
Saga of Malcolm Scott and De’Marchoe Carpenter
In January, The Frontier reported that a convicted killer who was executed in 2014 had claimed at one point to have committed a murder that sent two other men to prison for life. How much weight did his word have? Plenty, it turns out. Before 2016 ended, the two men — Malcolm Scott and De’Marchoe Carpenter — were free from prison.
The two men had a whirlwind year, but they ended it by celebrating their freedom — and their first free Christmas in more than two decades — by sitting courtside at an Oklahoma City Thunder game.
Terence Crutcher’s death just the latest tragedy to befall his family
The story of Terence Crutcher’s death has played out dramatically in Tulsa for the last several months, and it’s nowhere near ending. But before the officer who killed Crutcher was charged with first-degree manslaughter, The Frontier wrote that Crutcher’s death was only the latest of several tragedies to strike the family.
Dylan Goforth and Kassie McClung spent months investigating the apparent lack of oversight over Oklahoma’s armed and unarmed security guards. The Council of Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) licenses the security guards, and is also responsible for sanctions imposed against them. However, a dearth of funding and employees has left the agency falling behind a mountain of paperwork, which has allowed security guards charged with crimes to keep their licenses, sometimes for years.
As part of the same series, Dylan Goforth detailed the life and death of Monroe Bird, who was shot and killed by a Tulsa security guard in 2015. The security guard was not charged with the shooting, but was eventually charged with marijuana possession after a TPD officer found the drug in his backpack the night of the killing. However, the security guard was not charged with that crime until much later, allowing him to flee the state and avoid a conviction.
Payton Hendrick in prison for a murder he didn’t commit
The Frontier told you the story of Payton Hendrick, a developmentally disabled teenager who was charged with a murder he didn’t commit due to the state’s at times controversial felony murder statute.
Robert Bates/Eric Harris
Robert Bates was convicted this year of killing Eric Harris, one of the few cases nationally where a law enforcement officer was sent to prison for an on-duty killing of an unarmed suspect. And while Harris and Bates were portrayed as being worlds apart, the two men actually shared some striking similarities.
Bartlett wonders why he lost his mayor seat
Mayor Dewey Bartlett was perhaps the most surprised person in Tulsa when he was upended by G.T. Bynum. Days after the election, he spoke Kevin Canfield about why he felt voters chose to take Tulsa in a different direction.
Money from “Safe Oklahoma” grants not used as intended
When Gov. Mary Fallin created the “Safe Oklahoma” grants, she at first intended the money to be used to keep low-level offenders out of prison. After she was criticized for being soft on crime, she bailed on the idea, though the money was still available.
An investigation by The Frontier found that most agencies who drew from the money used it to target drug users, shoplifters and people with traffic warrants.
The man who testifies for Oklahoma cops when they kill someone
Jim Clark had a long, prosperous career at TPD. And in retirement, he’s found a side job in testifying for some Oklahoma officers when they kill someone on duty. The Frontier looked at some of those cases — Clark has never testified against an officer— and detailed an incident this summer where Clark’s testimony helped convince prosecutors not to charge an officer who killed a man following a pursuit.