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Serious Questions Raised in Taser/Gun Mixup Fatal Shooting

Posted on April 15, 2015 at 8:10 PM

Tulsa (KFAQ) – The attorney who represents the family of the suspect killed in a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Violent Crimes Task Force undercover operation gone horribly wrong raised some serious questions after Sheriff Stanley Glanz's exclusive, in-depth interview with KFAQ’s Pat Campbell.


Listen to Dan Smolen's full interview here." target="_blank">WARNING: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE. Watch the full video of the chase and takedown of Eric Harris." target="_blank">WARNING: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE. Watch the full video of the undercover operation to purchase a handgun from Eric Harris.


Tulsa attorney Dan Smolen, whose website says his firm specializes in “civil tort litigation, civil rights and employment law,” spoke with Campbell in response to Glanz’s exclusive, in-depth interview with Campbell on Tuesday.


During the interview, Smolen told Campbell, “I’ve got lots of concerns, not only by what [Glanz] had said yesterday [on KFAQ’s Pat Campbell Show], but things that have just come out in general.”


Smolen called into question the fact that reserve deputy Bob Bates, who has been confirmed by Glanz to be a generous benefactor to the sheriff’s office, was part of what Smolen called the “elite” Violent Crimes Task Force. He said many of the expensive vehicles and tactical items Bates paid for went directly to the team on which he served. Smolen also said he doubted other reserve deputies were allowed to serve on such sensitive operations.


KFAQ has requested a list of names of reserve deputies who have participated in undercover sting operations of this magnitude and their functions. Glanz said Bates was provided “third-tier” support.


“Mr. Bates absolutely had no business being there,” said Smolen, who equated the 73-year-old reserve deputy, who CLEET confirmed with KFAQ is a certified peace officer in the state of Oklahoma, to a bystander in a surgical suite who is allowed to jump in and perform surgery.


“Well and if the neurosurgeon, you know, he got a phone call, you could go ahead and use the scalpel while he was gone,” Smolen quipped.


KFAQ co-host Eddie Huff pointed out that Bates had hours of training documented by the Council on Law Enforcement Education, which provides training oversight for most law enforcement officers in the state of Oklahoma.


“When they’re up there saying he got 320 hours or a thousand hours of field training and that he’s an advanced special reserve deputy. That’s not a CLEET issue, that’s a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office issue. And I haven’t seen a single record that this man had any field training. Period.”


TCSO general counsel Meredith Baker said the department did send Bates’ training records to Smolen’s office on April 10. The records, obtained by KFAQ, state that he has received credit for hundreds of hours of training since he joined the TCSO reserve program in 2008.


“And in fact I have reason to believe that the field training records that did exist no longer exist. But the ones that did exist at one time are falsified,” Smolen said.


KFAQ spoke with Steve Emmons, the director of CLEET, about how the agency tracks training for officers to determine whether they are still qualified to serve.


“Individual agencies qualify their own people,” Emmons said. “And then they report to CLEET that they have qualified them, and then all our records would show is whether a person had or had not qualified [according to the local agency]. We get the sign-in sheet and then we just enter it in to the system.”


The recording of officer training is basically on an honor system. There is no way for the agency to determine whether the person who signed the sign-in sheet actually attended the training. When KFAQ inquired whether we could have access to the sign-in sheets where Bates (or any other officer) attended training, Emmons said Oklahoma Open Records rules prohibit the release of information regarding training for individuals without a subpoena.


Another issue many critics have had about the video released by TCSO of the takedown of Eric Harris is the way in which deputies appeared to grind Harris’ head into the ground when Smolen said Harris was compliant. Glanz told Campbell on Tuesday, part of law enforcement officers' training in containing a fleeing, struggling suspect is to control the head.


"If you can pin their head, then you control their body. One of my deputies is a CLEET instructor…When you're in a struggle with someone that's a danger to the community then you try and control him the best that you can, and that's simply a tactical move that controls that person when they're down,” said Glanz.


Smolen said he’d like to see anywhere where that defensive tactic is taught.


“I would ask you to find someone in law enforcement, particularly with CLEET, have them come in and tell you about their training practices with respect to slamming their knee into someone’s head on the ground like that.”


KFAQ spoke with Emmons about whether the organization’s defensive tactics include methods that control the head with the knee, as Sheriff Glanz stated in his interview with KFAQ on Tuesday. Emmons said CLEET teaches a method called the Three Point in subduing a suspect.


“Three-point is when they control the upper body of someone, if they’re above the person, they put a foot up against a shoulder, and they lean their knee on their shoulder at a 45-degree angle toward the opposite side buttocks. So they never teach anything with the head or the neck as a control point. It’s all done with the shoulder and the upper back.”


A comparison of images of instructors teaching the three point tactic sent by CLEET to KFAQ llustrates the difference between the takedown of Eric Harris and what is taught at CLEET.


KFAQ has asked TCSO whether deputies received additional, more advanced defensive tactics training than the basic training described by CLEET. We also requested the names of additional trainers. We are awaiting a response.


Smolen expressed concern over the fact that there are no records that indicate Bates was qualified with his personal revolver, which TCSO identified as a .38 but Smolen refers to as a .357 snub-nose.


“What I see in the video is Mr. Bates walk over, with a taser on his chest. Why he’s there, I don’t know. He doesn’t have any field training. He’s not certified with a .357 and I doubt any officer of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office has ever been certified with a .357 snub-nosed revolver in the line of duty.”


The records obtained by KFAQ from TCSO show that the department turned over to CLEET training sign-in sheets that qualify Bates annually on a Glock and not on a Smith and Wesson .38 – the weapon TCSO said was used in the shooting of Eric Harris. Department officials said Bates was carrying his own handgun because he was not expected to be as close to the takedown as he was.


Bates has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of 44-year-old Eric Harris on April 2 during an undercover operation with the Sheriff's Violent Crimes Task Force.


Deputies said Harris had sold methamphetamine to undercover deputies and surveillance showed the convicted felon apparently attempting to sell them what he described as a “Luger” handgun. When Harris saw the arrest team move in on the vehicle where he was allegedly making the sale, he ran and deputies pursued. Video from a deputy's body camera shows at least three deputies subduing Harris. In the background, a voice can be heard yelling, “Taser, taser.” Seconds later, Bates shot Harris as deputies struggled to subdue him, immediately saying, "Oh, I shot him. I'm sorry."

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