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TPD lieutenant found not guilty of shooting cover-up

Tulsa police Lt. Marcus Harper, center, speaks to reporters alongside his attorneys Paul DeMuro, left, and Danny Williams on Thursday, June 13, 2024, after he was found not guilty of charges in connection with his role in the investigation into a 2020 shooting.
Max Bryan
/
KWGS News
Tulsa police Lt. Marcus Harper, center, speaks to reporters alongside his attorneys Paul DeMuro, left, and Danny Williams on Thursday, June 13, 2024, after he was found not guilty of charges in connection with his role in the investigation into a 2020 shooting.

Tulsa police Lt. Marcus Harper was acquitted in a Tulsa court Thursday of charges related to a shooting he was accused of trying to hide.

Harper was charged with accessory to a felony in 2021 for his role in an investigation linked to former TPD officer Latoya Dythe’s car. Prosecutors initially accused Harper of telling Dythe’s boyfriend Devon Jones and his brother Jonathan to get rid of guns and flee town after they were involved in the August 2020 shooting.

Rogers, Mayes and Craig county prosecutors brought the charges after Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler recused himself from the case.

During the three-day non-jury trial, the court established that Harper went to Dythe’s apartment after the shooting, tried to get information from Jonathan Jones about what happened and then told Dythe to call 911 and report the incident.

Devon Jones and Dythe both said Harper told them to not tell anyone he was at the apartment. But they also said Harper told them to be truthful with law enforcement.

“To say that he was telling me to duck law enforcement, to leave, that’s — no,” Devon Jones said.

Jonathan Jones said Harper never told him to flee town or to get rid of any guns.

Prosecutors also tried to prove Harper obstructed the investigation. They relied on multiple Tulsa police officers who argued Harper not being forthcoming delayed their work. Officer Tyler Cox said he served a search warrant on someone he falsely believed to be with Jonathan Jones on the night of the shooting due to the delay.

In the closing arguments, prosecutor Kali Strain claimed Harper became an accessory to the shooting “the moment he got in his car and drove away.”

“He gave them hours to do whatever they were going to do,” Strain said.

The prosecution also said Harper should have known Jonathan Jones was a suspect because he refused to give any information about the shooting.

But defense attorney Danny Williams pointed out that officers arrested Devon Jones the day after the shooting. Harper told the court he informally spoke to his supervisor about the situation shortly after it happened, and wrote her a statement when she asked.

“There has been no testimony of which the investigation was actually impeded or delayed,” said District Judge Clifford Smith, who issued the verdict.

Prosecutors declined to answer questions after the verdict.

Smith said he “does not condone” Harper’s actions, and said discipline or termination from TPD may be appropriate. TPD Capt. Richard Meulenberg said the department is conducting an internal investigation related to Harper.

Harper said he will eventually have to report to TPD.

“At some point, I’ve got to go back into that hostile environment and try to continue on, and wait for what’s next,” Harper said.

Before the charges, Harper oversaw TPD’s Major Crimes Unit and was the Black Officers Coalition president.

Harper’s wife Vanessa Hall-Harper — one of Tulsa’s city councilors — said after the trial that her husband’s charges were an attempt to assassinate their characters after she called for greater oversight and accountability at TPD.

“All of this was an attack on me and my husband as two leaders in this community. This is all this was, because I said that TPD has crooked-ass cops in it, and today just proved that I was right,” Hall-Harper said. “That’s all this was, was an attempt to assassinate our character and to question our leadership in this community, and it didn’t work.”

Meulenberg declined to comment on Hall-Harper’s remarks, citing TPD’s internal investigation of Harper.

Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS. A Tulsa native, Bryan worked at newspapers throughout Arkansas and in Norman before coming home to "the most underrated city in America." Several of Bryan's news stories have either led to or been cited in changes both in the public and private sectors.