A former deputy and murder defendant turned material witness testified Tuesday for grand jurors investigating the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office. He then offered a tearful glimpse into his first moments post incarceration after the dismissal of a murder charge against him.
The man, Warren Crittenden, is a critical witness regarding the leaked 2009 Sheriff’s Office internal investigation of former Reserve Deputy Robert Bates.
Crittenden was a corporal in Internal Affairs at the Sheriff’s Office when he told the probe’s investigator that he felt pressured to sign off on memorandums he didn’t write or agree with. The memos stated that Bates was capable of performing the functions of a patrol deputy and should be granted advanced reserve status based on the “outstanding ability” he had shown in the field.
He met with grand jurors for about an hour Tuesday morning, telling reporters afterward that “it feels good to tell the truth.” Accompanying him was his attorney, Brett Swab.
Crittenden responded to a question seeking his thoughts on the multiple investigations swirling around the Sheriff’s Office, as well as the 2009 internal report.
“I hope that everyone that comes in tells the truth, because once the truth is out a lot of people’s eyes are going to be opened to the Sheriff’s Office, and I’ll just leave it at that,” Crittenden said. “It may not be what they’re thinking it’s going to be.”
A Tulsa County judge dismissed a murder charge against Crittenden on Aug. 20, allowing him to become a material witness for prosecutors.
Crittenden, 44, was charged Feb. 10 along with Kendrick Logan, 27, Jerome Hardaway, 28, and Dustin Ward, 24, in the Jan. 27 slaying of Michael Jones at the Super 8 Motel near 31st Street and Memorial Drive.
Swab has said Crittenden — who was not a deputy at the time — was forced to take part in an ambush on Jones and was an involuntary bystander. An arrest affidavit states that Crittenden told officers he wasn’t the shooter and was held at gunpoint himself.
Tulsa Jail records indicate that Crittenden posted a $100,000 bond and was released from jail the morning his charges were dropped.
Crittenden recounted on Tuesday his emotional and happy reunion with his 13-year-old autistic son after his release. Crittenden’s parents watched over the youngster during his almost seven months of incarceration.
“When he got there and there wasn’t glass between us, he hugged my neck off,” Crittenden said, tearing up. “Best hug I’ve ever had.”
Crittenden said readjusting to life on the outside is a one-step-at-a-time endeavor.
“I thank God every second for the truth coming to light,” he said.
Crittenden filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Sheriff Stanley Glanz and the county in 2011. He alleges in court documents that he was terminated on the basis of his disabilities and in retaliation for his workers compensation claim. He had post-traumatic stress disorder and a degenerative disc disease, according to court documents.
The civil case, with multiple plaintiffs, wound up at the federal level before being remanded back to district court. Crittenden’s prior attorney withdrew from representing Crittenden in May.
Swab said Tuesday that Crittenden’s lawsuit ended up being dismissed to be refiled at a later date. Swab said the timing wasn’t right with the murder charge hanging over Crittenden and that having the case dismissed was the most sensible way to clean the slate and start over.
Swab said he and another attorney plan to refile the case but that Crittenden is focused first on dealing with the Jones homicide case.
According to the 2009 internal report, Crittenden felt forced to endorse the assertion that Bates was qualified to be an advanced reserve with 328 hours of field training when policy stipulates that 480 hours are necessary. The investigator was able to find only 72 documented hours of field training for Bates.
Crittenden told the investigator he would have asked Bates to do remedial training, noting that he was “not really good at traffic stops or operations,” according to the report.
Bates has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the April 2 shooting of Eric Harris during a Sheriff’s Office gun sting. The 74-year-old insurance executive has said he meant to use a Taser and not his revolver when he shot Harris once as deputies subdued the suspect on the ground.