Police videos showing the aftermath of the alleged stabbing of Tulsa County District Court Judge Sharon Holmes show Tulsa Police Sgt. Marcus Harper conversing with officers on the scene that night earlier this month.
But it’s unclear what Harper, accused in a police document of telling reporting officers to title what is now believed to be a stabbing as an accident, said that night because the portion of body camera footage that shows him talking outside of Holmes’ residence after the alleged stabbing was muted by the officer with whom he was speaking.
Tulsa Police added body cameras to their officers’ duty gear a few years ago to increase transparency, saying that the cameras were “impartial observers,” machines that could not be biased for or against officers.
The cameras are also able to be muted, as happens multiple times in videos released quietly by the police department Tuesday night.
So even though there were hours of body camera footage uploaded to TPD’s media portal late Tuesday, what exactly happened is still unclear.
Some videos show officers trying to console Adrienne Smith, 28, Holmes’ daughter who is now arrested and charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. Other videos show officers talking out of earshot of Smith, calling for crime scene investigators to the address and quietly questioning her story that Holmes fell on the knife.
Smith was arrested earlier this month, about a week after Holmes, the first black female district judge in Tulsa County history, was found bleeding on the floor of her home with a deep knife wound in her leg. Smith told police her mother fell on the knife after they had been in an argument over Smith’s father being in the hospital.
It wasn’t until about a week later that the public became aware of the incident. The Tulsa World published a story based on an incident report that alleged Smith had stabbed her mother, but that a police supervisor had said for the report to be listed as an “accident.”
A day after the Tulsa World report, The Frontier reported that the police supervisor listed in the incident report was Sgt. Marcus Harper, a decorated longtime police officer assigned to the homicide division.
Harper’s wife, District 1 City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, has battled with police over several issues and said that her history with the department, as well as her husband’s support for an independent police oversight committee proposed by Mayor G.T. Bynum, had led to the department turning against her husband.
Since Smith was arrested and later charged, the case has been mostly quiet.
The police videos appeared Tuesday night on the Tulsa Police Department’s community portal, a forum that allows for press releases and some video footage to be released to the media. Often the media organizations are made aware of the presence of new videos on the site.
But on Tuesday 12 videos were uploaded to the portal without warning. The videos are not titled, so it’s often unclear which officer is behind the body camera.
In one video, an officer attempts to calm Smith, who is accusing police of treating her like a suspect after the officer asks to take photos of her bloody clothes.
“That’s evidence of you trying to help her that we want to be able to photograph,” the officer tells Smith, who replies: “I don’t want this to be on the news.”
The officer then tells her “The news is not going to come out and they’re not going to get those pictures.”
That officer then moves to the kitchen where Holmes had been on the floor bleeding and receives a phone call from an unnamed Corporal.
The officer tells his supervisor “let me mute my-” and his hand moves to the body camera, which continues filming, but in silence.
Several minutes pass by before the volume is back on. In the meantime, the officer moves to the porch where camera shows him speaking to Cpl. Jason Muse. The body camera is still muted at this point, so it’s unclear what the two discuss, though Muse can be seen in a different video telling another officer that he should wait and see what the “doctors say” and “piece together” what happened before determining how to treat the incident.
The other officer appears to say that he was hesitant to list what happened as “self inflicted” given that Holmes is “a district judge.”
“We’ll find out what they say at the hospital and what they say here and they can give us guidance on what they wanted titled,” Muse tells the officer.
Person of interest
Though Smith wasn’t arrested until a week after the alleged stabbing, the videos make it clear officers suspected her almost immediately.
One officer, who identifies himself as “Angel” in the video, takes a phone call from another officer and says “what’s up man,” before sliding into a bedroom to talk more covertly.
“I’m out at the stabbing scene,” he says to the person on the phone, before saying “We’ve got a person of interest still here, so I just went in another room. Yeah, there’s a person of interest in another room.”
When Angel exited the room, Smith appeared in his video loudly saying “they’re trying to act like I did this to my momma.”
Muse can be seen telling Smith “Did you tell the officers what happened?” before Smith replies “Yeah, but they think I’m the one who … did it.”
“Why do you think the officers feel that way?” Muse asks.
“Because I know how TPD is,” Smith says, “that’s why.”
Angel then walks into the kitchen and tells other officers that Dennis Smith and Marcus Harper are “on the way” and “they said to look for medication.”
Harper, a Tulsa Police officer since the 1990s, has been front and center lately as tensions between city leaders and some police officials have risen. Bynum pitched an idea earlier this year of having an independent oversight committee be formed to help oversee certain investigations into police activities, saying that it might help repair the relationship between the city’s black community and the police department.
The Fraternal Order of Police, of which Harper perhaps ironically is a member, argued against the committee being formed. Harper, on behalf of the Black Officers’ Coalition, wrote a letter in support of the committee, and his wife. Harper’s wife, Vanessa Hall-Harper, also supported the committee, and had previously angered the police union when she criticized the 2016 shooting of Terence Crutcher by officer Betty Shelby and called officers who supported Shelby “Crooked Ass Cops” in a social media post.
Hall-Harper told The Frontier earlier this month that these factors had led the department to turn against her husband, hoping to strongarm Hall-Harper into “shutting up.”
“It won’t work,” she said in an interview earlier this month with The Frontier.
The police incident report from the night of the alleged stabbing, which was not made available publicly but was obtained previously by The Frontier, is written by an Officer Scepanski, and identifies Harper as telling Scepanski to call the incident an accident.
Police have refused to say much about that allegation, noting that they may need to begin an internal investigation, presumably of Harper, though information about officers who are investigated internally is not released publicly by TPD.
And while it’s unclear what Harper said the night Holmes’ was allegedly stabbed, it’s clear he was not the only officer who talked openly about leaving the incident listed as “accidental” or “self-inflicted” until a later date when there was more clarity about what had happened.
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 the fuck 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 that “if there had been a big fight, there would have been more shit (in the kitchen) knocked over.”
In another video, in which an officer who identifies himself as Officer Angel speaks outside in a muted recording with Harper, it appears to show Harper entering the home and talking with Smith, saying “nobody blames you” for what happened.
It’s unclear if it is Harper in the video, as the video was completely blurred out by the police department.
“Nobody is treating you like a suspect,” the officer says, before asking Smith “You’ve known me how long? … your whole life? So just calm down.”
The video then mutes again for more than 10 minutes and remains completely blurred, so it’s unclear who is talking and what they might be saying.
Many of the other videos are similar. One video shows an unnamed officer driving to the hospital, where he sees Holmes being taken off the ambulance on a stretcher. The video then goes mute and blurred for several minutes before ending.