Two Tulsa County Sheriff’s sergeants who raised concerns about reserve deputy Robert Bates’ lack of training in 2009 appeared to be among witnesses called on the second day of grand jury testimony Wednesday.
Witnesses who appeared to be Sgt. Randy Chapman and Sgt. Eric Kitch waited outside the Tulsa County District Courthouse room where grand jurors are meeting. Another witness in a TCSO uniform waiting to testify appeared to be Deputy Michael Huckeby, a member of the drug task force under scrutiny.
Because the grand jurors are not meeting in a courtroom, it is impossible to tell who, if anyone, has testified. Witnesses are also not identified on public records and the three refused comment when leaving the courthouse.
Okmulgee County District Attorney Rob Barris is leading the grand jury, which is investigating allegations of wrongdoing by Sheriff Stanley Glanz related to the April 2 shooting of Eric Harris. Bates, 74, is a friend of the sheriff and former campaign chairman who donated cars and other equipment to the drug task force on which he was allowed to serve.
Bates shot Harris during an undercover gun sting while Harris was on the ground and appeared to be subdued by other deputies. He has said he intended to use his Taser on Harris but accidentally pulled his revolver, a weapon not approved by Sheriff’s Office policy.
Bates has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree manslaughter in Harris’ shooting death.
A citizens group, We The People Oklahoma, gathered more than 6,800 signatures to impanel the grand jury.
Jurors convened Tuesday, taking a tour of the Tulsa Jail and then meeting for several hours afterward. The petition approved by District Judge Rebecca Nightingale asks the jury to investigate 20 questions, including whether Sheriff Stanley Glanz “habitually neglected his duties.”
If jurors hear testimony from Kitch and Chapman, they will likely learn about concerns the sergeants raised in 2009 about Bates’ training and behavior. Kitch and Chapman were among several Sheriff’s Office employees interviewed as part of a 2009 internal affairs investigation into Bates.
The special investigation report is dated Aug. 12, 2009, and it was addressed to then-Undersheriff Brian Edwards by Sgt. Rob Lillard.
His report concluded that “policy has been violated and continues to be violated by both Capt. Tom Huckeby and Chief Deputy Tim Albin with regard to special treatment shown to Reserve Deputy Robert Bates with regard to his field training.”
Tom Huckeby, the father of Michael Huckeby, resigned apparently under pressure from Glanz in May. Albin also resigned and the department’s spokesman, Maj. Shannon Clark, was fired during the fallout after the Bates shooting.
Clark told The Frontier on Tuesday he was eager to testify before the grand jury and that he was wrongfully terminated by Glanz.
The report found that Huckeby and Albin created “an atmosphere in which employees were intimidated to fail to adhere to policies in a manner which benefits Reserve Deputy Bates.”
Statements by Glanz and his office about the internal affairs investigation have shifted several times. On April 10, the day the Sheriff’s Office played the video of Harris’ shooting, Capt. Bill McKelvey and a consultant for Glanz’s office were asked if concerns had ever been expressed about Bates’ training.
“Not that I’m aware of,” McKelvey said. The consultant, Tulsa Police Sgt. Jim Clark, also said he was unaware of such concerns.
During a press conference April 20, Glanz said he was aware of the investigation and believed it had found no policy violations.
When Harris’ family and others initially demanded release of the report, the Sheriff’s Office said the report was missing. Earlier, the Sheriff’s Office had said it was unable to find key training records for Bates.
The IA report states that Glanz met with Chapman, then-coordinator of the reserve program, about Bates. Chapman and other employees met with the sheriff after Chapman learned Bates had been stopping motorists in a vehicle he had donated to the county.
Chapman had earlier confronted Bates about stopping cars, despite not having the required 480 hours of documented training from a field training officer.
“Well I can do it and if you don’t like it, you can talk to Tim Albin or Sheriff Glanz because I’m going to do it,” Bates told Chapman, according to the IA report.
Albin later chastised Chapman for confronting Bates about his lack of training and other issues.
“You’re dicking around with Bates,” Albin told Chapman. “You need to stop messing with him because he does a lot of good for the county.”
After that conversation with Albin over Bates’ training, Chapman “met with the Sheriff in a meeting with other employees to bring this to the attention of the Sheriff,” the IA report states.
“Albin came to him ( Chapman) and stated, ‘I know you had a meeting with the Sheriff, well we’ll have one too,” the IA report states.
Michael Huckeby was also a task force member despite his relative inexperience. He can be seen in the video with his knee on Harris’ head after he was shot.
Terry Simonson, a spokesman for Glanz, has said Michael Huckeby should not have been appointed to the task force because he did not have enough law enforcement experience.
Bates became an insurance agent after serving one year as a Tulsa Police Department officer in 1964. Bates now owns Commercial Insurance Brokers Inc., in Tulsa.