After pouring through over 300 pages of testimony in the grand jury investigation of the shooting death of Eric Harris, the Tulsa World reported on February 8 that officials in the sheriff’s department pressured the investigators to report Harris’ death as a “justifiable homicide.”
Robert Bates, the officer who fatally shot Harris in the back during a gun buy bust in April of 2015, has been under previous scrutiny.
In 2009 it was alleged that he hadn’t been through the proper training to become a reserve deputy and was allowed to remain one because of hefty donations to the sheriff’s department. Bates claims that he shot Harris after mistaking his gun for his taser.
Major Robbie Lillard, commander of the Uniform Operations Division, conducted the original 2009 investigation into Bates’ training and standing within the Sheriff’s department. He testified to the grand jury that former Undersheriff Tim Albin and former Major Tom Huckeby held an unusually large role in the investigation of Harris’ death, and pressured the investigation to dub the death as justifiable.
Lillard speculates that this was done to protect the sheriff’s office from scrutiny as well as to protect Bates.
Former Captain Bill McKelvey also testified to the grand jury that he had been instructed by Albin to attempt to sway the investigation. McKelvey was told by Albin to meet with Harris’ family and to persuade them not to hire an attorney. McKelvey met with Andre Harris, Eric Harris’ brother, and told him that “attorneys convoluted these types of problems.”
Albin, Huckeby and McKelvey have all resigned from the Sheriff’s office since the 2015 shooting.