TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A petition calling for a grand jury investigation into an Oklahoma sheriff’s office and whether some reserve deputies received special treatment has enough signatures to be sent to a judge, who will decide whether to empanel a jury, officials said Tuesday.
According to the Tulsa County Election Board, 6,647 of 8,952 signatures gathered by the civil rights group We The People Oklahoma were valid. The group only needed 5,000 signatures under state law.
“I’m relieved,” said organizer Marq Lewis, who has called for the ouster of Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz since volunteer deputy Robert Bates fatally shot an unarmed Eric Harris on April 2. “It’s an important step because we are the citizens, and we’re seeing the system work.”
Bates, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter, is a friend of Glanz and has donated tens of thousands of dollars in cash and equipment to the sheriff’s office.
Bates has said he confused his handgun and stun gun in the shooting. Bates is white, and Harris was black, but the victim’s brother has said he does not believe race played a role.
Sherrif’s office spokesman Terry Simonson didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday. In earlier interviews with The Associated Press, Simonson has said Glanz would be eager to tell his side of the story before a grand jury.
The 17-page petition asks a grand jury to investigate whether Glanz neglected his duties and whether reserve deputies who gave donations to the sheriff were given special treatment.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is already looking into the shooting after a leaked 2009 memo raised concerns about Bates’ training. The reserve deputy program also has been temporarily suspended pending a review of the certification and training records of its 126 reservists.
Glanz, who took office in 1989, has said that he won’t step down because of the shooting but also won’t seek re-election next year.
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