A Tulsa Police Department internal investigation related to the stabbing last month of Tulsa District Court Judge Sharon Holmes is ongoing, a police spokesman told The Frontier on Wednesday.
Who — or what — is being investigated is unclear, however. Police department policy is to not comment on ongoing investigations, and the department only releases information following an internal investigation if officers are disciplined in certain ways, like suspensions, demotions and loss of pay.
Holmes was stabbed March 2 and her daughter, Adrienne Smith, was arrested and charged with assault about a week later, but much happened in the interim.
The incident was kept quiet for a few days, but eventually a police report was obtained by media outlets days after the alleged stabbing. The report, authored by Officer Scott Scepanski, noted that though it appeared to be an intentional stabbing — Holmes was stabbed in the back of the left leg by a large butcher knife, which had been removed and placed in a sink — he was instructed by Sgt. Marcus Harper to “title this report an accidental injury.”
Harper, a respected longtime Homicide Division detective, is also a friend of Holmes and her family. In body camera footage that was later released by the department, Harper appears to reference his personal history with the family by telling a distraught Smith that “nobody is treating you like a suspect.”
“You’ve known me how long? … your whole life? So just calm down,” he tells her.
Though the police report stated it was Harper’s call to initially treat the scene as an accident rather than a purposeful assault, other body camera videos made it clear Harper was not the only one that night who thought the incident might have been accidental. Multiple videos showed other officers debating what had happened. Holmes was found bleeding profusely from the leg and was quickly taken to the hospital that night, and several appeared to believe it was possible and even likely that Holmes simply fell on the knife as Smith stated at the scene.
In one video, an officer talks about how sharp the knife appeared to be, noting that if Holmes had fallen on it, it wouldn’t even take her “full body weight” for the knife to be buried deep in her leg if she fell straight on the point. An officer replies “all possibilities are possible at this point.”
The first officer responds that his “money” was on it not being a stabbing, noting “if she’d (Smith) stabbed mom, she’d have gotten … out of here.”
The other officer responds “Well, probably, given who mom is, probably.”
The officer recording the video later notes that the floor “looks wet,” and says “if there had been a big fight, there would have been more shit (in the kitchen) knocked over.”
After the police report was obtained, Harper’s wife, District 1 City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, told The Frontier she believed her husband was being targeted by the department due to his support for Mayor G.T. Bynum’s proposed independent police oversight committee, as well as for Hall-Harper outspokenness at what she has seen as corruption within the department.
Police Chief Chuck Jordan praised his officers in the days after Hall-Harper’s allegations and denied her claims.
Harper’s presence at the scene and friendship with the Holmes family could have prompted the internal investigation, as department policy states that officers are not to conduct investigations related to matters affecting them or their friends and family.
There were other possible policy violations that night that could have resulted in an internal police investigation. Officers that night repeatedly turned their body cameras on or off, or muted them at times, something that could be a violation of policy, though Jordan told the Tulsa World in March he thought those actions were “within the officers’ rights.”
Smith remains jailed on $10,000 bond. Her case is set for a preliminary hearing in May.