Update: The Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff's Office on Thursday questioned a training claim made by Reserve Deputy Robert Bates in the aftermath of a fatal shooting.
In a statement that the 73-year-old reserve deputy gave the sheriff's office following the fatal shooting of Eric Harris during an undercover operation on April 2, Bates noted he had taken "active shooter training" from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
Lisa Allen, chief media relations office for the sheriff's office there, said they had no record of Bates attending their training.
In fact, Allen said, that training is only available to members of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, meaning Bates would not have been eligible. The class, Allen said, has only been offered three times.
"We don't allow out-of-state people to take the class," she said. "I'm only surmising, and I can't confirm this because this would not have been our class, but our active shooter instructor did travel to Dallas once to teach a class.
"Maybe he took that class and is saying he took it through us, but again, that would not have been our class, so we have no way to verify if he attended it or not."
In Bates’ seven-page statement to Tulsa County sheriff’s investigators, obtained by the World on Wednesday, the reserve deputy states he previously attended a five-day homicide investigation school in Dallas and received “active shooter response training” by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
Update: The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office announced early Thursday it will conduct an internal review of the deputy reserve program.
The announcement comes just two weeks after 73-year-old Reserve Deputy Robert Bates fatally shot Eric Harris during an undercover operation on April 2.
"As with any critical incident, we are doing an internal review of our program and policy to determine if any changes need to take place," Tulsa County sheriff's Maj. Shannon Clark said.
Clark addressed the Tulsa World's story in which sources said sheriff's office supervisors were reassigned for not falsifying Bates' training documents, telling NBC News: "The media outlet that is putting that information out is using unconfirmed sources and also relying on anonymity. We don't respond to rumor."
Below is the Tulsa World story that appeared in the Thursday morning print edition and online
Supervisors at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office were ordered to falsify a reserve deputy’s training records, giving him credit for field training he never took and firearms certifications he should not have received, sources told the Tulsa World.
At least three of reserve deputy Robert Bates’ supervisors were transferred after refusing to sign off on his state-required training, multiple sources speaking on condition of anonymity told the World.
Bates, 73, is accused of second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Eric Harris during an undercover operation on April 2.
The sources’ claims are corroborated by records, including a statement by Bates after the shooting, that he was certified as an advanced reserve deputy in 2007.
An attorney for Harris’ family also raised questions about the authenticity of Bates’ training records.
Additionally, Sheriff Stanley Glanz told a Tulsa radio station this week that Bates had been certified to use three weapons, including a revolver he fired at Harris. However, Glanz said the Sheriff’s Office has not been able to find the paperwork on those certifications.
The sheriff’s deputy that certified Bates has moved on to work for the Secret Service, Glanz said during the radio interview.
“We can’t find the records that she supposedly turned in,” Glanz said. “So we are going to talk to her to find out if for sure he’s been qualified with those (weapons).”
Undersheriff Tim Albin was unavailable for comment Wednesday but in an earlier interview, Albin said he was unaware of any concerns expressed by supervisors about Bates’ training.
The Sheriff’s Office has released a summary listing training courses Bates had been given credit for but have not released documents showing which supervisors signed off on that training.
He rejected claims that Bates’ training records were falsified and that supervisors who refused to do so were transferred to less desirable assignments.
“The training record speaks for itself. I have absolutely no knowledge of what you are talking about,” Albin said. “There aren’t any secrets in law enforcement. Zero. Those types of issues would have come up.”
During a press conference Friday, Capt. Bill McKelvey and Tulsa Police Sgt. Jim Clark, a consultant hired by the county, also said they were unaware of concerns about Bates’ training.
The World has requested records showing which supervisors signed off on Bates’ training. An attorney for the Sheriff’s Office declined to provide them, saying the matter is under investigation.
Bates, a wealthy Tulsa insurance executive, turned himself in Tuesday after being charged on Monday in Harris’ death. He is free on $25,000 bond.
Harris was shot and killed during an undercover operation the Sheriff’s Violent Crimes Task Force was conducting. Harris, according to the sheriff’s office, had previously sold methamphetamine to undercover deputies and was in the act of selling them a stolen gun.
As deputies moved in to make the arrest, Harris bolted from the truck and ran, pursued by deputies until they brought him to the ground. Bates shot Harris while he was on the ground and immediately said, “Oh, I shot him! I’m sorry.”
The Sheriff’s Office has said Bates is typically in a support role assisting the task force. He told investigators he meant to stun Harris with a Taser but accidentally shot him with a handgun instead.
Bates was classified by the Sheriff’s Office as an “advanced reserve.” That means Bates would have had to complete 480 hours of the “Field Training Officer,” or FTO, program to maintain that classification.
Dan Smolen, who represents Harris’ family, said Wednesday that he believes Bates’ field training records were falsified and that they no longer exist.
The Sheriff’s Office previously said Bates had joined the reserve deputy force in 2008. However, Bates, in a statement he gave the Sheriff’s Office following Harris’ shooting, said he became an advanced reserve deputy in 2007.
The cause of that discrepancy is unclear.
In Bates’ seven-page statement to Tulsa County sheriff’s investigators, obtained by the World on Wednesday, the reserve deputy states he previously attended a five-day homicide investigation school in Dallas and received “active shooter response training” by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona.
Bates said in the statement that he had been involved in “at least 100 other” assignments, such as the undercover operation planned on April 2.
In that statement, Bates said he contacted a task force member on April 1 to ask if there was a “pending operation” he could assist with.
The task force member informed Bates of the plan to have an undercover officer buy a gun from Harris the following day.
Officials said Harris could have faced up to life in prison for selling the firearm because he had prior felony convictions.
During a briefing hours before the shooting, Bates said he was informed that Harris was “a bad son of a b----” who had gang affiliations.
Deputies in attendance were told Harris was known to carry a gun and to consider him armed and dangerous.
During a press conference last week, a consultant hired by the Sheriff’s Office pointed to several scenes from the recorded video of Harris’ shooting.
The consultant said the still images from the video showed why pursuing deputies would be concerned that Harris had a gun in his pants as he fled.
Bates mentioned this in his statement as well, noting he believed that Harris was running “in an unusual way,” touching his right hand to his waistband.
It was later determined that Harris did not have a gun on his body when he was tackled and shot. The video shows his arms flailing as he runs.
Undersheriff Tim Albin has said the video cuts off after Harris was shot because the camera battery died. The video was filmed on a “sunglasses cam” purchased by Bates for the task force.
Bates was Glanz’s 2012 re-election campaign manager and also was named reserve deputy of the year in 2011.
He has purchased five automobiles for the task force. Bates and other task force members drive the vehicles, which the Sheriff’s Office equipped with lights and other police equipment.
In his statement, Bates said he was unsure if the pursuing deputy would catch the fleeing Harris. So Bates said he grabbed his pepper-ball launcher, a “less lethal” device meant to incapacitate much in the same way as pepper spray.
Bates said as he approached the scuffle, he thought he noticed Harris again reaching for his waistband. At this point, while two additional deputies were subduing Harris, Bates said he saw a “very brief opening” in which he could hit Harris with a Taser.
Bates noted “thinking I have to deploy it rapidly, as I still thought there was a strong possibility Harris had a gun on him.”
At that point, as is evident in the video, Bates stated “Taser! Taser!” then fired one shot, striking Harris below the right arm.
Bates stated in his account that the time from which Harris was tackled by one deputy to the time Bates fired the fatal shot was “only about 5 to 10 seconds.”