Though the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office has been under intense scrutiny now for more than 11 months since the Eric Harris shooting, the public gaze has not kept several deputies from run ins with the law.
In the latest incident, Sgt. Randy Pierce was allegedly banned from the Simulcast off-track betting facility at Fair Meadows Race Track at the Tulsa County Fairgrounds. A Tulsa Police Department report alleged that an intoxicated Pierce damaged a machine at the facility, before leaving the building.
TPD declined to release the report following an Open Records Act request, but The Frontier was provided the incident report from another source.
Pierce, according to the report, “appeared to be extremely intoxicated,” and was observed by Simulcast staff hitting a machine and reaching inside it for a voucher.
Pierce is alleged in the report to have told security he “didn’t break anything,” before leaving. Security officers there told police Pierce is a “regular” at the track and “often arrives intoxicated and becomes more intoxicated” while there, according to the report.
Acting Sheriff Michelle Robinette said she had received the report from Tulsa police on Tuesday and could only say that an internal investigation was underway.
Pierce had not been placed on leave as of Tuesday night. Reached for comment, he said that “nothing criminal took place.”
“The machines there are 20 years old,” he said. “They break all the time, or a piece will pop off and you have to hit it to pop it back on … I said ‘If you think I broke some old plastic thing, just tell me how much it is and I’ll fix it.’”
He said he was unaware there was a police report filed in the matter or that the sheriff’s office had launched an internal investigation.
Pierce is at least the fifth deputy to face an internal sheriff’s office investigation in less than two months.
On Jan. 15, Cpl. Kyle Hess was involved in a high-profile incident at Chili Bowl, after allegedly flipping off NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. Stewart approached Hess and an argument ensued.
Video of the incident was recorded by fans and posted online, where it was shared tens of thousands of times. A YouTube video of the account has more than 350,000 views.
Hess was investigated internally and is back at work, according to Justin Green, TCSO’s public information officer.
Three other deputies who have recently had trouble with the law remain under investigation, Green said on Wednesday.
Sgt. Mark Stevens was placed on leave Feb. 5 during an internal affairs investigation over alleged embezzlement that involved subcontracting work done for Armor Correctional Health Services. Robinette said Wednesday morning that Stevens remains under investigation.
On Feb. 28, TCSO deputy Kyle Lovett was found sleeping in a SWAT team van in Rogers County after Lovett had an argument with his wife, according to a police report. Lovett admitted to drinking, and the police report said he appeared intoxicated.
Lovett was taken to the Rogers County jail, where he passed two breath tests. He was not arrested, and a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office deputy was allowed to retrieve the van, which contained SWAT team equipment, including a gun and a grenade launcher.
Another deputy, Toni Ivano, has been under investigation since early March. A reason for Ivano’s administrative leave has not been released by TCSO, but it’s not the first time Ivano has been in trouble.
In 2014 was arrested and charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence after admitting to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper who pulled him over Aug. 9, 2014, that he had consumed “several beers and shots” earlier in the evening.
Ivano, who was formerly known as Toni Ivanov before legally changing his name in 2013, pleaded guilty Sept. 22, 2014, and received an 18-month deferred sentence that doesn’t expire until March 18.
Lovett and Ivano remain under internal investigation, Robinette said Wednesday.
Robinette said Ivano underwent treatment, and said that county employees who express interest in going through that treatment are often allowed to stay upon completion.
“We’ve had a couple in the past that have had issues with drinking and driving, and if it was off duty and it wasn’t in our car, they’re disciplined,” Robinette said. “He would have gone through an internal investigation, and depending on the outcome of that, the punishment could have been anything up to firing him.”
Robinette said employees are referred to the Employee Assistance Program.
As for the rash of recent high-profile incidents, Robinette said she’s grown tired of “putting out fires.”
“It’s frustrating because we need our troops together,” she said. “Every time I get the phone call (that a deputy is in trouble,) I’m like ‘Really? Another one?’
“It’s difficult and frustrating and we have enough going on and now our own guys are causing issues. I don’t know what the cause of it is, is it because everyone has a sharp eye on us? Can we attribute it to the turmoil? I don’t know. All I can say is that we’re following our policies and procedures in terms of holding these people accountable.”