Records: Tulsa County reserve deputies drew weapons nearly 50 times in five years

David Stone, a gun store owner, and Daniel Witham, chairman of the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Sales Tax Overview Committee, combined for about half of the total use of force by advanced reserve deputies during the five-year period.

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A screen capture from the Eric Harris video. Harris was fatally shot April 2 by reserve deputy Robert Bates during a botched gun sting.
A screen capture from the Eric Harris video. Harris was fatally shot April 2 by reserve deputy Robert Bates during a botched gun sting.

A gun store owner and the jail tax overview committee chairman used force more often than all other Tulsa County advanced reserve deputies, each drawing firearms and using other types of force more than 10 times in the past five years, an investigation by The Frontier has found.

Altogether, 13 advanced reserve deputies used force at least 56 times since September 2010, according to records supplied by the Sheriff’s Office. The vast majority of force used involved reserve deputies drawing their weapons.

David Stone, owner of Dong’s Guns and Ammunition, used force 16 times during the five-year period covered by the records. Stone, 66, has been a reserve since 1996.

Daniel Witham, chairman of the county’s Jail Sales Tax Overview Committee, ranked second in the use of force among advanced reserve deputies, records show. Witham has drawn his firearm 10 times and used physical force once since 2010.

Stone and Witham combined for about half of the total use of force by advanced reserve deputies during the five-year period. The data provided by the Sheriff’s Office does not say whether any of the force was found to be outside policy.

Two well-known businessmen serving as reserve deputies both drew their firearms once since 2010: Real Estate developer Paul Coury and T. Hastings Siegfried, Nordam’s vice chairman and chief operating officer of the company’s Asia Pacific region.

There are about 115 reserve deputies volunteering for TCSO, though the sheriff’s office has not specified how many are considered “advanced reserves.”

To qualify as an advanced reserve, a reserve deputy must complete 320 hours training hours with the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, as well as 480 field training hours with the Sheriff’s Office.

Some or all of those FTO hours may be waived. Witham noted in a news story in 2012 that his training was “expedited” because of his past law enforcement experience.

However, all of Witham’s past law enforcement experience has come as an auxiliary police officer and reserve deputy in other agencies, not as a certified officer. He is a branch manager for LPL Financial investment firm.

Reserve Deputy Robert Bates
Robert Bates.

Reserve Deputy Robert Bates sparked public debate and criticism of the reserve program after he shot Eric Harris during a botched undercover gun sting April 2. A leaked 2009 internal affairs investigation found Bates’ supervisors expressed concerns he wasn’t properly trained but were pressured by top officials in Glanz’s office to sign off on his training records.

Glanz initially said the IA report found no policy violations, then said the report was missing. After the report surfaced, Glanz said he was aware of its findings.

In the fallout over Harris’ shooting, Glanz said he asked Undersheriff Tim Albin and Maj. Tom Huckeby to resign.  He fired the department’s spokesman, Maj. Shannon Clark, though records do not reflect a reason. Clark said recently he was wrongfully terminated by the sheriff and is looking forward to testifying before a grand jury investigating the sheriff.

Bates now faces a second-degree manslaughter charge for that shooting. Including Harris’s killing, Bates used force at least six times since 2010, though the Sheriff’s Office data lists only four.

Bates shot his weapon twice, the only firearms discharges by advanced reserves listed in the five years.

Records turned over by TCSO do not list the Harris shooting or a Feb. 12 incident where Bates used a Taser on a man named Terry Byrum. Byrum was handcuffed and taken to the ground by another deputy when Bates approached him and used a Taser on him, records show.

First Assistant District Attorney John David Luton said Byrum was not charged with a crime following the incident.

While the data supplied by the Sheriff’s Office contains only names of reserves, dates and types of force used, The Frontier obtained detailed reports on four incidents in which Bates used force:

  • Sept. 29, 2010 – While serving a search warrant in the 2100 block of North Frankfort Place, Bates stated he “presented his firearm.” (Presentation of a firearm means it was drawn and pointed.)
  • May 18, 2011 – Bates stated he “spread pepper spray” in the interior of a residence in the 1000 block of East Haskell Street. “6 Windows Broken,” the description states. “11 rounds fired — 1 suspect removed from residence.”
  • Jan. 31, 2012 – Bates stated he was assigned to a drug case in Sand Springs when he shot a “pit bull.” The dog survived the shooting, according to the report.
  • March 20, 2012 – Bates, assigned to TCSO’s Drug Task Force sprayed two “pit bull dogs” with pepper spray while serving a warrant in the 2700 block of East Admiral Boulevard.

Witham could not be reached for comment by The Frontier. Since 2005, he has served as the chairman of the Sales Tax Overview Committee, which oversees how tax money collected for jail operations is spent.

Daniel Witham. Courtesy
Daniel Witham. Courtesy

In a 2012 story in the Tulsa Business and Legal News, Witham explained why he had applied to serve as a Tulsa County reserve deputy in 2005. Witham previously served as an auxiliary Tulsa Police officer and a reserve deputy in Bixby and Coweta.

“There were more things to do and there was more of a chance to catch criminals, the bad guys,” he told the newspaper.

He discussed his views on the reserve program in a comment on the Tulsa World’s website. The comment was prompted by an editorial after Harris’ shooting calling for a thorough review of the program.

“In the past week, I have apprehended a burglar who was looting a house, arrested a felony suspect wanted in another state, captured two suspects wanted in Tulsa on warrants, located and recovered a stolen car and found a suspect vehicle from an armed robbery. The work we do is important and it does matter,” Witham’s letter states.

“As far as our lives being endangered, why don’t you let us decide if we want to put our lives in jeopardy or not? It’s our lives, not yours. If we don’t, who will?”

The Sheriff’s Office named Witham “Reserve Deputy of the Year” in 2013.

Glanz, Stanley wide
Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz.

Glanz has frequently portrayed the reserve deputy force as a group of volunteers who mostly work in low-risk roles including the Tulsa State Fair.

“These reserve deputies are trained to work in a number of areas: patrol, court services, transportation, special events and the drug task force,” Glanz said in a Tulsa World opinion column. “They also have a very big presence during the Tulsa State Fair.

“I use volunteers in our reserve program because it allows citizens to see up close what jobs we do, how we do our jobs, and the challenges we face. Nothing is more transparent than bringing the volunteer right into the workplace.”

When Bates shot Harris, the 74-year-old insurance executive was serving on an undercover drug task force. A friend and former campaign manager for Glanz, Bates had also donated cars and expensive equipment to the Sheriff’s Office.

Marq Lewis, who led the grand jury petition drive, said he was shocked at the number of times advanced reserve deputies have used force against citizens.

“These are supposed to be volunteer deputies; they’re supposed to be helping people,” Lewis said.

He said it is a conflict of interest for Witham to serve as a reserve deputy while overseeing jail tax spending.

“He needs to step down from being a reserve deputy or from being on the jail tax overview committee. There’s no accountability with the jail itself, and then you have the person who is over the jail tax committee who is a reserve deputy.”

During a meeting of the committee last month, Witham began the meeting by “reminding the attending members that it has been presented in the past that he could have a conflict of interest operating the Chairman’s chair and if anyone would like for him to recuse himself in this conversation he would do so. … The members instructed Witham to proceed as the chair,” the meeting minutes state.

The committee was discussing a variety of issues related to Glanz’s operation of the jail.

Stone said on Friday that he has spent four decades as a reserve officer, beginning in 1975 with the Tulsa Police Department, and then in 1996 with the sheriff’s office. He said he regularly donated more than 4,000 hours per year until “the last five or six years,” when he scaled back to about 1,000 hours per year.

He said the fallout from the Bates scandal has impacted all reserve deputies, regardless of their ranking within TCSO.

“One guy does a stupid thing, and the rest of us pay for it,” Stone. “There’s only a few of us like me that work a lot of hours. In 2011, I got an award for the most arrests, and that counts all full time deputies.”

According to TCSO records, Stone was named Reserve Deputy of the Year in 2003 and received a Distinguished Service Award in 2011.

Stone is licensed through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to deal firearms, as is Bates.

Sheriff’s office officials confirmed in April that Stone, along with fellow reserve deputies Hastings Siegfried and Bates, have donated vehicles to TCSO.

Stone said he regularly works three shifts a week — every Monday evening and then again on Thursday and Friday mornings.

“I just enjoy it, I enjoy helping people,” he said. “I’ve made thousands of arrests, I’ve worked hundreds of DOAs (dead on arrival,) homicides, I’ve taken reports on kidnappings.”

However, a veteran lawman who retired from the Sheriff’s Office in 2010 said the frequency with which some advanced reserve deputies used force during the past five years was “absolutely ridiculous.”

Bill Mitchell, a former Osage County undersheriff and TSCO deputy, said: “I spent 35 years in law enforcement and I only drew my weapon about 10 times in 35 years.”

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Ziva Branstetter

Editor in Chief / Staff Writer

Ziva maintains she was always too nosy to be anything other than a reporter. Though she's on a new adventure with The Frontier, she spent more than 25 years in the newspaper business, making politicians nervous and making sure readers got the truth. Contact: ziva@readfrontier.com or 918-520-0406.
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