Protest group seeking grand jury, removal of Glanz

Marq Lewis, left, with “We the People Oklahoma,” talks about a petition filed Wednesday by Laurie Phillips, right, seeking a grand jury to request the removal of Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz./DYLAN GOFORTH The Frontier

By DYLAN GOFORTH and ZIVA BRANSTETTER

The Frontier

A group calling itself “We the People” filed a petition in district court Wednesday seeking a grand jury to remove Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz from office for “willful neglect of duty,” records show.

The group will gather signatures to impanel a grand jury to investigate a variety of issues related to Sheriff Stanley Glanz’s office, including his reserve deputy program and the shooting of Eric Harris.

The petition was submitted about 3 p.m. Wednesday to Presiding District Judge Carlos Chappelle. Chappelle has four business days — end of day Tuesday — to decide if the petition is in order.

If an order is issued that the petition is sufficient, the group has 45 days to obtain the required number of signatures. The state Constitution requires a maximum of 5,000 signatures on such petitions.

Marq Lewis, listed as citizen/petitioner on the document, said the group hopes to gather up to 10,000 signatures. Lewis is also one of the organizers of We The People.

If Chappelle decides the petition is not in order, Laurie Phillips, the filing attorney, has two days to file an amended version.

“This is our only recourse as citizens to remove an elected official,” Lewis said. “We had hoped that within four weeks that Sheriff Glanz would have stepped down. Unfortunately (Glanz) is steadfast and determined to remain in office, and that unforunately is not the leadership … Tulsa County needs.”

Phillips said it’s unknown how long the grand jury process will take — “Once it gets going, I don’t expect it to take that long,” she said. “But you don’t know. Some take a long time and others don’t.”

Glanz told the Tulsa World earlier this week that he would not seek re-election when eligible next year.

Harris was shot and killed April 2 during a botched undercover purchase of illegal guns conducted by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office Violent Crimes Task Force.

A 2009 internal affairs investigation found that Undersheriff Tim Albin, Maj. Tom Huckeby and others gave special treatment to Reserve Deputy Robert Bates.

Bates is a longtime friend of the sheriff who managed Glanz’s 2012 re-election campaign. He also donated thousands of dollars worth of cars and surveillance equipment to the Violent Crimes Task Force on which he served.

An investigation by the Tulsa World found that sheriff’s officials pressured Bates’ supervisors to sign off on training that Bates had not received. Glanz initially told reporters that an internal affairs investigation into Bates’ training found no wrongdoing.

After records surfaced showing the investigation found multiple policies were violated, Glanz said he was unaware of the 2009 internal affairs investigation. The report was addressed to then-Undersheriff Brian Edwards, who has declined to comment on the issue.

The goal of the sting was to arrest Harris — who deputies described in a pre-raid briefing as “a bad son of a bitch” — after he sold a gun to an undercover deputy. However Harris, who was unarmed apart from the gun he sold, saw incoming arresting deputies and ran away.

His sprint didn’t last long. Harris was tackled from behind and then pinned to the street by deputies Joseph Byars and Michael Huckeby. Bates, who pulled up late in a dark-colored SUV, exited his vehicle with a pepperball gun, according to a statement he gave to sheriff’s office investigators four days after the shooting.

At some point, Bates put away the pepperball gun and grabbed a .357-magnum revolver strapped to his side, reportedly mistaking it for the yellow Taser latched onto his bulletproof vest.

As Bates approached the tackled Harris, he announced “Taser! Taser!” then fired a single gunshot into Harris’ right side below the armpit. Harris immediately began to yell that he’d been shot and died about an hour later, after he’d been transported to a Tulsa hospital.

We the People Oklahoma’s social media presence launched in late 2014 following a number of police shootings, but the group has grown in notoriety following the Harris shooting.

Lewis organized a number of rallies in the weeks following Harris’ death, leading hundreds of people on a short jaunt from the Tulsa County Courthouse to the sheriff’s office five blocks north. The group’s protesters have marched peacefully while chanting “black lives matter,” and “no justice, no peace.”

The hope, Lewis has said, is that public pressure will inspire change at TCSO. And while Undersheriff Tim Albin recently resigned — the changes haven’t been widespread enough, Lewis said.

Lewis told the Associated Press earlier this week that Glanz’s announcement that he would not seek re-election as sheriff “doesn’t satisfy us at all.”

In a press release Wednesday, the group said: “True change is what’s needed to improve the lives of residents of Tulsa County. Not only do we need better relations between the community and those who serve the public interest but we also need to eradicate the economic and educational disparities that exist.”

We the People plans to march Wednesday at 7 p.m. from Second Street and Elgin Avenue to the Sheriff’s Office at 500 S. Denver Ave.

“As with all of our rallies, this will be an event where people can come to discuss their concerns and be a part of improving the lives of Oklahomans,” the release states.

The state Constitution states a county sheriff may be removed from office for several reasons, including “habitual or willful neglect of duty, gross partiality in office, oppression in office, corruption in office and … willful maladministration.”

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 a 2005 shooting by Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel, a reserve deputy.

Yazel accompanied other reserves and deputies to arrest a man on a warrant in Okmulgee County. Yazel shot Danny Foutch in the buttocks, allegedly as Foutch was trying to grab a gun from another reserve deputy, who works in Yazel’s office.

Glanz’s office said at the time it had placed Yazel on administrative leave as a reserve while the shooting was investigated. Records show that Yazel remains a reserve deputy.