White Tulsa officer charged in shooting of Black man
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A jury has indicted a white Tulsa police officer on a reckless conduct charge for shooting a Black man during a traffic stop in March, saying the officer took “unreasonable risk” when he shot at the man’s car multiple times.
The Oklahoma multicounty grand jury on Thursday charged Aaron Russell, 29, with misdemeanor reckless conduct with a firearm in the March 21 shooting of 35-year-old Michael Delaney, who was struck in the shoulder when Russell shot at his car.
The grand jury determined that Russell “created a situation of unreasonable risk and probability of death or great bodily harm and demonstrated a conscious disregard” for Delaney’s safety when he shot multiple times at the car while Delaney was in it.
“I was completely shocked by that,” Russell’s attorney, Scott Wood, said of the indictment. “He did everything related to this incident pursuant to his training.”
The grand jury, however, declined to charge Russell with felony assault and battery with a deadly weapon.
On March 21, Russell approached Delaney after a 911 caller reported him as a suspicious person.
Police said Russell saw what appeared to be a pistol in the vehicle and ordered him to get out of the car. Delaney refused, and he accelerated while Russell was partially in the vehicle trying to get him out, police said. Russell proceeded to shoot at Delaney as he drove away, striking him once in the shoulder, according to police reports.
“Review of the in-car video and body worn camera evidence did not support the initial belief that officers were assaulted with a vehicle, and the firearm was determined to be an airgun,” Tulsa Police Officer Jeanne Pierce said in a Thursday press release.
Pierce said that information led authorities to amend the case against Delaney, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of obstruction in July.
Delaney is being held in the Tulsa County Jail on complaints of eluding police, reckless driving and driving without a license.
Pierce said Russell has been on administrative leave since the shooting and will not return to work until the criminal case is complete. She added that his work duties will be restricted, and he will be reviewed by Internal Affairs.
The indictment comes at a time of increased scrutiny of law enforcement after the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis in May.