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Eric Harris Shooting: DA Wants Investigation Into Tulsa County Sheriff's Office

A 2009 investigation was uncovered Friday that concluded the deputy received preferential treatment by supervisors at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.
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/ Source: NBC News

An Oklahoma prosecutor said Friday he is "highly concerned" about recent allegations against the Tulsa County sheriff's office, a day after reports surfaced showing others had questioned the performance of a reserve deputy who killed an unarmed man this month.

"New information has been submitted to this office regarding actions in the Sheriff's Office that are worthy of further investigation beyond the scope of the manslaughter case," a statement from Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen Kunzweiler's office said Friday.

"I am highly concerned about recent allegations that have surfaced and I have been in contact with independent law enforcement agencies regarding further investigation into these matters," Kunzweiler said in the statement.

A 2009 Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department report obtained by NBC News found that Robert Charles Bates, 73, charged with the April 2 shooting death of Eric Harris, 44, wasn’t required to follow some protocols of the department.

Bates said he thought he grabbed his Taser but instead pulled his handgun and shot Harris by accident during a foot pursuit.

The report also found that department employees were asked by the department’s captain, Tom Huckeby, and the chief deputy, Tim Albin to modify reviews and training hours documentation for Bates. Those who raised concerns about Bates’ skill and the violations were told to keep their mouths shut by Albin, the review found.

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Meredith Baker, general counsel for the sheriff's office, said Friday that "we intend to fully cooperate with any legal investigation." The sheriff's office also said the release of the report was unauthorized, but it is examining how the release occurred.

"No action was taken at the time, but the existence of this document demonstrates this office’s willingness to investigate and review any allegations of policy violations," Baker said of the 2009 report.

Bates, a retired insurance executive, is a longtime friend, political supporter and campaign contributor to Stanley Glanz, the Tulsa County sheriff.

“Policy has been violated and continues to be violated by both Captain Tom Huckeby and Chief Deputy Tim Albin with regard to special treatment shown to Reserve Deputy Robert Bates."

In the report, some Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department employees said they were retaliated against or were afraid of being transferred if they raised concerns about Bates’ lack of training hours or skill.

Tulsa County Sergeant Eric Kitch said in the report that when he wrote memorandums about Bates not completing entry tests, he was first accused of harassing Bates and then told by Chief Tim Albin that “you can be right but don’t say anything about it."

Another sergeant, Randy Chapman, confronted Albin about Bates using his own vehicle while on patrol. Bates eventually donated the vehicle to the county, but wasn’t following policies regarding the vehicle, Chapman said in the report. Albin told Chapman to "let it go," the report said.

When Chapman wouldn’t and spoke to Bates about and making traffic stops on his own even though he hadn’t completed the training program, Chapman was assigned to an overnight shift for a week and then transferred to a program in which he wouldn’t have contact with Bates.

Chapman told a colleague about the incident, who "told him there is nothing he can do because Bates has bought Huckeby watches and takes him fishing and stuff," the report said.

"Policy has been violated and continues to be violated by both Captain Tom Huckeby and Chief Deputy Tim Albin with regard to special treatment shown to Reserve Deputy Robert Bates with regard to his field training and with Captain Huckeby and Chief Albin creating an atmosphere in which employees were intimidated to fail to adhere to policies in a manner which benefits Reserve Deputy Bates," the report’s conclusion said.

Bates claims he thought he grabbed his Taser but actually grabbed his handgun while he was pursuing Harris. Bates has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge brought in connection with Harris' death.

Bates’ lawyer said Thursday that his client had hundreds of hours of experience. "No one involved in the Harris operation has raised any concern that Mr. Bates was unqualified or undertrained for the containment position he was assigned," attorney Clark Brewster said. Brewster also denied that Bates received preferential treatment.