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Witnesses: Police officer didn't say to flee or hide guns, but delayed investigation

Tulsa police Lt. Marcus Harper, left, speaks to his wife and city councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, right, outside a courtroom in the Tulsa County Courthouse during his trial for an accessory to a felony charge on Wednesday, June 12, 2024.
Max Bryan
/
KWGS News
Tulsa police Lt. Marcus Harper, left, speaks to his wife and city councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, right, outside a courtroom in the Tulsa County Courthouse during his trial for an accessory to a felony charge on Wednesday, June 12, 2024.

Witnesses say Tulsa police Lt. Marcus Harper didn’t do the most egregious offenses outlined in a criminal charge — but he still might have negatively changed an investigation through inaction.

Harper was charged in 2021 in connection with a shooting 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 Jonathan was involved in the August 2020 shooting.

Dythe and Devon Jones were later federally convicted of making false statements when buying a gun.

Harper is currently on trial for accessory to a felony. To convict Harper, prosecutors would have to prove to a judge that he knowingly aided a suspect, concealed a felony or obstructed law enforcement investigation into that felony.

Witnesses said Harper arrived at Dythe’s apartment at her request after Jonathan Jones and a man named Eddie Townsell drove back after the shooting at a convenience store in the 61st and Peoria area. Townsell removed shell casings from the vehicle after firing a gun from inside during the altercation.

Devon Jones said Harper tried to discuss the incident with Jonathan, but that Jonathan was uncooperative. Jonathan told the court Harper didn’t say anything about guns used in the incident or say anything about leaving Tulsa.

Harper also said to call 911 and be truthful with the officers who arrived, Jones said.

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

TPD Sgt. Jeremy Ballard said there was no proof that Harper obstructed or removed evidence in the shooting investigation.

Defense attorney Paul DeMuro reiterated this point.

“Jones didn’t tell him anything about the underlying felony. He clammed up,” DeMuro said.

But multiple Tulsa police officers have testified that the investigation into the shooting would have gone more smoothly if Harper had been forthcoming about his visit to Dythe’s apartment. TPD Supervisor Tyler Cox said he served a search warrant on someone he falsely believed to be with Jonathan Jones that night, which might have been avoided if Harper had been forthcoming.

TPD Capt. Demetrios Treantafeles said it was “extremely concerning” that Harper was there that night.

“I believed that, if he was there, that it would have been outrageous to not tell me, or at least somebody in the gang unit, what was going on,” said Treantafeles.

Former TPD Maj. Tracie Lewis said Harper came to her and briefly explained his visit to Dythe’s apartment. Lewis said she then asked Harper to send a memo on the situation, which Treantafeles said is the only narrative from Harper he’s used in his investigation into the matter.

DeMuro countered that officers arrested Devon Jones the day after the shooting, arguing that they were able to work efficiently in the investigation without Harper’s cooperation.

Harper was the former head of major crimes in TPD, was the Black Officers Coalition president and is married to city councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper. Prior to his criminal charge, Harper advocated for greater oversight and transparency in the department.

His trial resumes Thursday at the Tulsa County Courthouse.

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.