By Ziva Branstetter and Dylan Goforth
Efforts to impanel a grand jury to investigate the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office passed their first hurdle Friday, when a Tulsa County judge approved a petition filed earlier this week.
We The People Oklahoma, the grassroots organization behind a number of rallies and protests in the wake of the Eric Harris shooting in April, filed the petition Wednesday seeking a grand jury.
The group must now collect 5,000 signatures in 45 days supporting a grand jury investigation. Marq Lewis, We The People Oklahoma organizer, said earlier this week he hoped to collect 10,000 signatures.
Presiding Judge Rebecca Nightingale said in a written order Friday that if true, the allegations contained in the group’s petition “would warrant a bill of indictment.”
The petition lists 20 areas of inquiry, most surrounding reserve deputy Robert Bates, who shot Harris April 2 during a botched gun sting. The inquiry also focuses on training that reserve deputies receive and allegations that Bates and others may have received partiality from Sheriff Stanley Glanz.
Glanz said Bates has been his close friend for more than two decades and has donated money and equipment to the sheriff’s office, as well as taking the sheriff on trips across the globe. Bates also served as Glanz’s campaign chairman in 2012 and has donated to his campaign in the past.
Lewis said We The People Oklahoma organizers will begin collecting signatures immediately, with several public events scheduled. Attendees to this weekend’s Rooster Days Festival in Broken Arrow will be able to sign the petition, Lewis said.
Other public events will be listed on the group’s Facebook page. Phillips said anyone interested in assisting with the effort, or those interested in signing the document, can come by her office at 1408 S. Denver Avenue.
“Our phones have been blowing up since we did the petition,” Lewis said. “We had people call from everywhere, saying, ‘How can we help?’ I mean people watch these stories and they are captivated and they want to be a part of it.”