Refiled Suits in Oklahoma Allege Excessive Force by Ex-Reserve Deputy

January 11, 2016

Lawsuits have been refiled that allege a former Tulsa County volunteer sheriff’s deputy used excessive force when he fatally shot one man and used a stun gun on another.

The lawsuits were refiled against Robert Bates, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the death of Eric Harris. Bates has said he mistook his gun for a stun gun when he shot Harris in April.

Last month, the lawsuits were dismissed on procedural grounds, the Tulsa World reported.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Harris’ estate alleges Bates was improperly trained and supervised, and accuses former Sheriff Stanley Glanz of turning a “blind eye to these dangers.”

A misdemeanor charge against Glanz alleges that he failed to release an internal report questioning Bates’ training. Glanz wants the charge dismissed, and attorneys for him say the 2009 report was confidential and not subject to release under Oklahoma’s Open Records Act.

The other lawsuit alleges that Bates wrongly used a stun gun on Terry Byrum while Byrum was handcuffed on the ground in February. It’s disputed whether Byrum continued to struggle or was compliant before Bates used the stun gun.

Glanz and acting Sheriff Richard Weigel are listed as a defendant in both lawsuits, though attorney Dan Smolen, who filed the lawsuits, said Weigel is named only in his official capacity because he took over after Glanz resigned in November.

The lawsuits seek damages in excess of $75,000. Harris’ estate is also pursuing damages for deliberate indifference to medical needs.

Defense attorney Scott Wood said actions against Byrum were “reasonable and necessary under the circumstances” but that Harris’ shooting “was purely an accident.”

The lawsuits initially had been added in June to a complaint from a Tulsa jail inmate who was assaulted by another inmate and alleges he received negligent care. A federal judge ruled Dec. 4 that joining the lawsuits would result in unnecessary delays and waste judicial resources.

Bates is set to go on trial in April.

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