The Frontier

In neighboring Okmulgee County, where the district attorney has been assigned to investigate alleged wrongdoing by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, records and interviews show a variety of connections between law enforcement and prosecutors over the years as well as potential conflicts.

An investigator for the Okmulgee County district attorney’s office is being sued in a case alleging excessive force against a man who was Tased during a 2013 arrest. The same investigator, Gary McCollum, was involved in a botched arrest in 2005 in which Tulsa County Assessor and Reserve Deputy Ken Yazel shot an Okmulgee County man in the buttocks.

McCollum lawsuit Okmulgee (1)

The Okmulgee County District Attorney’s Office later cleared Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz’s office in that shooting, despite heated criticism from their own county’s Sheriff, Eddy Rice, that the shooting was “a messed up deal.”

Rice and Tom Huckeby — the major reportedly forced to retire from Glanz’s office — have known each other for years. Rice told The Frontier last month he had spoken to the retiring major as soon as it was announced Huckeby was leaving the Sheriff’s Office during fallout over the fatal shooting of Eric Harris by Reserve Deputy Robert Bates.

Okmulgee County District Attorney Rob Barris, appointed by the attorney general’s office to handle any investigations involving Glanz’s office, did not return calls seeking comment.

Barris was designated by the AG after Tulsa County DA Steve Kunzweiler bowed out. Though Kunzweiler said early on that the allegations made against the sheriff’s office warranted an investigation, he feared leading it himself would raise a conflict.

Kunzweiler is a longtime prosecutor and the DA’s office has advised Glanz’s office in prior civil matters, so the AG moved the matter about 40 miles south, to Okmulgee.

“District attorneys seek recusals on a regular basis and when determining where to reassign such cases,” said Aaron Cooper, a spokesman for Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

“The attorney general takes several factors into consideration including but not limited to geography, existing caseload and previous experience in prosecuting similar subject matter. Those considerations along with District Attorney Barris’ more than 20 years of prosecutorial experience, including handling county and multicounty grand jury investigations, factored into the decision to reassign this case to his office.”

Glanz’s office has not responded to multiple requests over the past several weeks by The Frontier for an interview with the sheriff. Through a spokesman and in press releases, Glanz has rejected accusations of wrongdoing contained in a grand jury petition currently circulating that seeks to oust him.

The request for investigations followed Harris’ April 2 shooting death, and revelations that some inside TCSO had concerns for years about Bates’ training and gun qualifications. Undersheriff Tim Albin and Huckeby, who headed the Violent Crimes Task Force that Bates volunteered with when he shot Harris, resigned following the shooting.

Because Glanz did not fire them, Albin and Huckeby will retain their peace officer status — including guns and badges — and retirement pay from the county. A 2009 internal affairs report concluded that both violated policies relating to Bates, who was a friend and campaign manager for the sheriff.

Undersheriff Tim Albin, left, and Maj. Tom Huckeby, right, resigned following the Eric Harris shooting.

Undersheriff Tim Albin, left, and Maj. Tom Huckeby, right, resigned following the Eric Harris shooting.

Whether Barris will lead a grand jury investigation of Glanz or preside over any charges brought against the sheriff remains to be seen. Earlier this month, a Tulsa County judge approved a petition by a group of citizens seeking to impanel a grand jury to investigate Glanz.

With about a month remaining ahead of the deadline to submit signatures, a founder of We The People Oklahoma said Thursday the group has collected 4,000 of the 5,000 signatures necessary.

Should the grassroots organization meet its goal, Barris would oversee the investigation into the Sheriff’s Office here as well as lead the grand jury effort. The OSBI has not said whether it plans to investigate, as requested by Kunzweiler.

Sheriff: 2005 shooting “a messed up deal”

In 2005, a task force including Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office deputies and reserve deputies was involved in a botched attempt to arrest a man with a warrant in Okmulgee County. At least seven full-time deputies and six reserve deputies, including Yazel, surrounded Danny Foutch’s trailer in Hectorville to serve the arrest warrant.

Foutch was sought on Tulsa County charges of manufacturing a controlled drug, escape from lawful custody, petty larceny and larceny of gas. The deputies called over a loudspeaker for Foutch to come outside but he ran out the back door.

Reports on the shooting and other evidence and statements appear to differ on what happened next. Official reports state that Foutch ran toward Yazel and Reserve Deputy Brian Pounds, also an employee in Yazel’s office.

The report states Foutch ran into Pounds, knocked him to the ground and tried to gain control of Pounds’ firearm. Yazel then fired his .30-caliber rifle at Foutch, the report states, striking him in the buttocks.

Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel

Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel

Evidence at the scene indicated Yazel was 46 feet away from Pounds and Foutch when the shot was fired. Deputies waited 15 minutes before calling an ambulance to the scene, reports indicated.

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office reviewed the shooting on its own, rather than asking the Okmulgee County Sheriff’s Office or an outside law enforcement agency to review it. The Sheriff’s Office did not interview Foutch as part of its investigation and found the shooting within policy.

Foutch’s attorney, Brian Rayl, said at the time that Foutch denied struggling with Pounds or even running into him. A review of statements from deputies at the shooting scene found that only Pounds and Yazel reported witnessing a struggle for Pounds’ gun.

Then-Okmulgee County DA Tom Giulioli ruled the shooting justified. However, Okmulgee County Sheriff Eddy Rice stated in a memo that the shooting was “a messed-up deal” and that Tulsa County’s reserve deputies “would not be allowed to operate in his county.”

Okmulgee County Sheriff Eddy Rice

Okmulgee County Sheriff Eddy Rice

In addition to Foutch being shot, two deputies accidentally discharged their weapons at the scene that night.

Rice told an investigator for Glanz that “the scene was never treated as a crime scene by their standards.”

“Deputies were walking all around taking and moving items” at the shooting scene, the April 15, 2005 memo by an investigator for Glanz states.

“They felt our reserve program was a bunch of untrained, unsupervised volunteers. They also believe this shooting was not necessary.”

Two Okmulgee County deputies accompanied the task force to arrest Foutch, though news reports do not list their names. However, McCollum was apparently involved in either the attempt to arrest Foutch or the investigation afterward.

The 2005 memo said McCollum “was amazed (TCSO) never they never asked him what he knew or where he was or what he saw.”

The petition lists 20 areas of possible inquiry for the grand jury and multiple pages of allegations. The allegations include the Bates shooting as well as the 2005 shooting by Yazel.

DA investigator sued over arrest

McCollum now works as an investigator for the Okmulgee County District Attorney’s Office, though it is unclear what, if any, role he would have in an investigation of Glanz. However McCollum is embroiled in a recent allegation of excessive force, records show.

On Jan. 25, 2013, McCollum and two Okmulgee police officers arrived at a residence in Okmulgee looking for Michael Riley, but allegedly Tased and broke the ankle of another man inside that home.

A brief filed by attorneys representing the city of Okmulgee and the two officers states that law enforcers showed up to the home that day with a warrant for Riley’s arrest, who they feared might be suicidal. Scott Wood, one of the attorneys representing the officers, said he believed Oklahoma State University Okmulgee notified the officers that they needed to “check on (Riley’s) well-being.”

However the lawsuit indicates the law officers may have claimed they smelled marijuana when they went to the home.

Riley was arrested at the scene and eventually pleaded guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia. He received six months probation, following which the charge was dismissed and expunged from his record, documents show.

According to a lawsuit filed earlier this year, when McCollum and the two officers — Tyson Fuqua and Jon Keim — arrived at the residence, they ordered a man inside the home named Damon Hall to open the door. The suit was filed in Okmulgee County but later moved to U.S. District Court.

The lawsuit states that Hall told the three law enforcement officers he wouldn’t open the door, so they responded by asking for Riley, who eventually came to the living room and walked out to the porch.

McCollum, according to the lawsuit, stuck his foot between the door frame and the door to keep Hall from “terminating the encounter.” Hall said he continued to attempt to close the door and asked McCollum if he had a warrant, to which McCollum demanded Hall exit the residence along with Riley.

Hall said he wouldn’t exit “the safety of his house,” and McCollum allegedly reached through the doorway and tackled Hall, then ordered Keim to use a Taser on Hall.

Hall was jailed and later charged with obstructing an officer, a misdemeanor for which he eventually pleaded guilty, and is serving one-year of probation.

Hall stated in the lawsuit that while in jail he “repeatedly complained” about his ankle, and after being released, discovered during a medical visit that his ankle had been broken.

The lawsuit, filed by Bryan & Terrill Law, of Tulsa, was eventually moved to federal court.

Wood said in an email to The Frontier that he believed “the case is defensible, and that the actions of all the defendants was permissible.”