(CNN) — Two deputies involved in the fatal attempt to arrest Eric Harris in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have been reassigned because of threats against them and their families, Sheriff Stanley Glanz said Monday in a news conference.
The deputies were trying to arrest Harris when Reserve Deputy Robert Bates shot him. Unlike Bates, they are not charged with a crime, but have come under criticism for pinning Harris’ head to the ground as he said, “I’m losing my breath.” Police appear on video saying, “F*ck your breath,” apparently in response.
Sheriff Stanley Glanz didn’t specify the nature of the threats, but said he was “very concerned” for their safety and that of their families.
He did not say what the deputies had been assigned to do. Another sheriff’s official said the office has temporarily suspended operations of the agency’s drug unit pending the review of the April 2 shooting of Harris following a weapons sting.
Glanz indicated he has not yet decided how to proceed with a review of their actions, saying any action may be delayed until after the court case involving Bates has been settled. Bates is charged with second-degree manslaughter in Harris’ death.
Bates, who is free on $25,000 bond pending trial, shot Harris with his handgun after calling out, “Taser, Taser,” — an indication he planned to use a stun gun to subdue Harris following a brief foot chase with the other deputies.
Amid questions about his age — 73 — training and friendship with Glanz, Bates has said the shooting was accidental, and has apologized to the family.
On Monday, Glanz also apologized to Harris’ family.
“We are sorry Eric was taken from you,” he said.
But he said his office holds itself to the highest national standards of policing, and said Monday that the FBI had cleared the agency of any civil rights violations in the shooting. Bates is white. Harris was black.
There have been allegations, first reported by the Tulsa World newspaper, that some of Bates’ training records had been forged, or that he was unqualified to be serving on the force.
The sheriff denied those allegations, saying he was certain Bates had qualified on the gun range and had extensive additional training. He said he was unaware of any forgery involving training records, and said he had not issued any training waivers for Bates, with whom he has been friends for more than two decades.
But he said he supported prosecutor’s decision to proceed with the case. He also said he had brought in a Dallas police consultant who had previously examined the office’s policies and procedures for another look.
Harris’ family has said the shooting reveals “a deep-seated problem” within the department and has demanded justice, and changes in policy.