Killer deputy Robert Bates isn’t the Tulsa sheriff’s only problem. The embattled lawman is being sued by one of his former deputies—a pro wrestler who’s in jail on murder charges.
Warren Cole Crittenden—known to Oklahoma wrestling fans as “The Real Deal,” “The Masked Outlaw,” and “The Cooler,” not to mention “Super Invader” and “Super Destroyer II”—is one officer listed as a plaintiff in a 2011 wrongful-termination suit filed against Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz.
As Glanz faces scrutiny over his buddy Bates—a millionaire volunteer cop who killed an unarmed black man after apparently mistaking his gun for a Taser —he’s also warring with former employees in a years-long court battle.
On Thursday, the media called the 73-year-old Bates’s training credentials into question. Bates has said an Arizona sheriff’s office provided his “active shooter training,” but officials there denied he ever trained with them and have no records of him doing so.
Meanwhile, Tulsa County sheriff’s department supervisors were reassigned after refusing to falsify Bates’s training records, The Tulsa World reported. (The sheriff’s department has denied these allegations.)
The death of ex-con Eric Harris was captured on police body cameras, with Bates heard shouting “Taser!” before saying, “I shot him. I’m sorry.” The viral footage adds to a string of cases of unarmed black men being killed by police.
But Tulsa’s sheriff has been fending off attacks well before the controversy surrounding Harris’s death.
Cole Crittenden, 44, was a former Tulsa detention officer and deputy, a semi-pro wrestler, and—according to a YouTube search—he appears to be a public urinator.
But for Glanz and then-Undersheriff Brian Edwards, the hulking 6-foot-3, 260-pound Crittenden was such a pest, they ordered him to take not just one, but up to five different polygraph tests, court records show.
Crittenden’s civil suit, in which ex-deputy Michael Schmauss is also a plaintiff, has dragged on. Another officer in the legal action died, while a fourth withdrew himself from the case. (An attorney for Glanz declined to comment to The Daily Beast about the suit.)
In a bizarre twist, Crittenden is being represented by brothers Daniel and Donald Smolen—the same attorneys representing the Harris family. The barristers have made a nightly habit of basking in the limelight of cable news and crowing about their CNN appearances.
The Smolens did not return calls for comment on Crittenden’s case. Earlier this week, though, lawyer Donald Smolen had dangled the prospect of releasing a bombshell affidavit on Bates’s training to a Daily Beast reporter.
Harris’s death has brought on a pall of radio silence around Tulsa. When The Daily Beast reached law enforcement and plaintiffs in Crittenden’s civil case, calls were quickly dropped. A police source told The Daily Beast that the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office has imposed a gag order on its employees. (The Sheriff’s Office did not answer requests for comment on any gag order.)
The Crittenden case highlights how one deputy allegedly earned a reputation as a bad apple in the sheriff’s good ol’ boys club. Back in the day, the heavyweight was the ultimate showman, and even prisoners at the Tulsa County jail were in his corner.
“Sometimes people who have been inmates ... will come find me down here,” said Crittenden in 1998, referring to a bowling alley that held wrestling matches. “They will even bring their kids and their wife and tell them what a good guy they think I am and how they respected me as an officer.”
Years later, following a tip from a citizen, the sheriff launched an internal probe into whether Crittenden “engaged in improper behavior with a woman who was an exotic dancer at the [Foxx Hole Lounge] in Tulsa County,” said Captain Rob Lillard in a June 2012 court declaration.
The sheriff’s department wanted to know if Crittenden had warned the jiggle joint of an impending search warrant, so they administered a polygraph test, which officials told him he flunked, according to court records.
The 16-year veteran of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office was terminated in 2011, for what he claims in the lawsuit was retaliation for his workers’ compensation claims for PTSD and degenerative disc disease.
Still, those claims pale in comparison to the wrestler’s next legal round.
In January, Crittenden became one of five people charged with first-degree murder for the fatal shooting of fugitive pimp Michael Jones, 33, inside of a Super 8 motel. (All have pleaded not guilty.)
Jones was in town from Oklahoma City trying to hustle hookers, police told The Daily Beast. “Mike Jones was pimping girls and was trying to pick up this girl that he hooked up with at the casino,” said Sergeant David Walker of the Tulsa Police Department. “They got a couple rooms and that’s how they were doing their business.”
The morning of January 27, Jones and a woman named Pamela Taylor ditched the Hard Rock Cafe & Casino for the Super 8 Motel. Once inside Room 228, Jones gave Taylor $20 and “demanded sexual favors,” which she “rebuffed,” according to a police report.
Taylor, 27, said Jones became hostile and “she feared for her safety,” the report says. She fled and phoned for help. But, as Sergeant Walker quips, “Instead of calling the police, she called these upstanding citizens to resolve it.”
Two of the alleged murderers, Kendrick Logan and Jerome Hardaway, have lengthy violent rap sheets. Jones himself was wanted in Cincinnati on human-trafficking charges. Logan and Hardaway allegedly marched into the hotel with Crittenden as backup to “rough up” Jones.
Somehow the fight led to gunfire, and Jones was fatally blasted in the chest, according to police. Logan and Taylor fled in a blue Mustang, while Hardaway hitched a ride in Crittenden’s white 2006 Ford F-150, police said.
Crittenden was alone when cops busted him around noon after he rear-ended a car. The fallen wrestler told officers he was coerced and went along with the motel beatdown because he was held at gunpoint, according to police and friends of Crittenden.
Sgt. Walker wasn’t buying it. “This flies in the face of what we looked at,” he said. “He can claim whatever he wants.”
Crittenden’s version of the aftermath has him hightailing to the police station. Again, Sergeant Walker calls this fiction. “If he was going to the police station and wrecked his car, he had already missed it by a quarter-mile,” he said. “He just rear-ended the car and it was divine intervention on Crittenden.”
Brett Swab, the attorney representing Crittenden in his murder case, told The Daily Beast he believes the wrestler will be exonerated. “Whatever has been reported is erroneous … There wasn’t a thorough investigation done,” Swab said.
Wrestling buddy Thomas Demos—who fights under the handle “StepStool Tommy D”—says “The Real Deal” doesn’t hang with gangbangers. Crittenden was trying to stay alive for his autistic son, Demos said.
“They made him go along with them and said: ‘If you run, we’ll kill you,’” said Demos, 47, who says he gets intel from pals who visit Crittenden. “He got caught up in it and couldn’t get away from them because these guys had guns. The reason he didn’t fight back and kept himself alive was because of his son. He loves his boy so much.”
Demos says The Real Deal was planning a pro-wrestling comeback. “He was trying to build his body up,” the pint-sized powerhouse said, adding that his pal was also serving as a coach to sprouting grapplers.
“He wanted to help younger wrestlers and do more for his community and thought it was his calling to bring them to Jesus,” Demos said.