Fraud and Corruption in Office Charged Against Chief

Daily Ardmoreite/June 26, 1921

Grand Jury Probing Race Riots Allege Grave Dereliction of Duty on Part Sworn Law Officers

Municipal Peace Guardians Fired

Failed to Prevent Interracial War and Permitted Immoral Houses to Operate

Tulsa, Okla., June 25—Chief of Police John Gustafson of Tulsa and other members of the police department were indicted today by the grand jury in connection with the recent race riot and on charges of vice.

Other indictments were returned against Bay Ward, head of the police automobile recovery department, and Roy Meacham, traffic officer; B.F. Waddell, chief of police of Sand springs, and E.E. Williams, Sand Springs patrolman.

The jury in its report submitted to District Judge Valjean Biddison recommended that the indicted officers be immediately suspended from office. The charges against the policemen were not in connection with the race riots, it was said.

Final Report Brief

The final report of the grand jury was comparatively brief. It found that the race trouble resulted from armed negroes marching up town to defend Dick Rowland from lynching; that no attempt had been made or was being made to lynch Rowland, and the crowd of whites assembled about the courthouse was largely a peaceful one; that the armed negroes were responsible for the riots that the whites assembled at the courthouse and who took part in the fighting there later were not to blame.

It further found there were underlying causes for the riot notably the spreading of racial equality doctrine among the negroes for a considerable time by members of their own race and the storing of arms by them in a negro church and other places; that the majority of the negroes were not implicated and were ignorant of the true facts.

It found that the police had not properly enforced the law either in the white or negro section; refused to place any blame on Sheriff William McCullough for the riot; deplored reports of the riot which had gone out through the newspapers and called on the citizenship to demand law enforcement and competent officials.

Implicate Police in Auto Thefts

The minor members of the Tulsa police department are implicated in an automobile theft case.

The charges against Gustafson include failure to enforce law against vice in rooming houses, failure to enforce the prohibition laws, failure to enforce the anti gun-carrying law, and dereliction of duty on the night of the riot.

Police Commissioner J.M. Adkinson refused to announce what course he would take upon suspension of the officers until he had received a formal report from the grand jury.
The grand jury filed a lengthy report on the result of its inquiry.

Chief Accused on Five Counts

Chief of Police John A. Gustafson was formally accused today by the race riot grand jury on five counts in a final report in which Attorney General S. P. Freeling, who conducted the inquiry, told the court he could not fully concur for the reason that it did not include accusations he said he believed should have been made against other officials and alleged rioters. The jury blamed the armed negroes who went to the courthouse on the night of the outbreak of the riot. In the same report, the grand jury accused four policement and indicted seven civilians. The seven are accused in connection with the race riots. The policemen are not. Previously approximately ninety indictments had been returned.

On the request of the grand jury and the attorney general, District Judge Valjean Biddison, to whom the report was made, immediately ordered the suspension of Chief Gustafson from office. Judge Biddison announced that all the accused policemen stood suspended pending trial.

The policemen, in addition to Chief Gustafson, who are accused, are Bay Ward, head of the automobile bureau in the police department; Roy Meacham, police officer; B.L. Waddell, chief of police of Sand Springs, and F.E. Williams, Sand Springs police officer.

Serious Dereliction of Duty

The charges against Chief Gustafson are that he failed to enforce the prohibitory law in Tulsa; that he failed to abate houses of prostitution in Tulsa; that he failed to enforce the law against carrying firearms, and that he failed to enforce the law against theft of automobiles and to arrest and prosecute persons guilty of such thefts, and that he entered into a conspiracy with the police officers, Bay Ward and Ray Meacham, and one Calvin in this regard, that he failed to perform his duty as chief of police in suppressing rioting and looting during the race trouble.

The charge against Roy Meacham was that he, as a police officer, became a member of the conspiracy with Gustafson, Ward and Brady. Brady, whom Chief Gustafson said at the time of his arrest some months ago, was an “under-cover” man for the police department, is in the county jail awaiting trial on two automobile theft charges.

Seven indictments were returned against alleged rioters and looters in connection with the race trouble. Four are understood to be whites and three negroes. Officers were dispatched from the sheriff’s office in search of the accused men.

The charge against Bay Ward is that he, as head of the automobile bureau in the city police department, entered into a conspiracy with Gustafson, Meacham and Brady wherein thieves were permitted to steal the automobiles and bring them to Brady and the police recovered the reward, but did not apprehend or prosecute the thieves. The Sand Springs officers are accused of not enforcing vice and prohibition laws.

The grand jury was empaneled by District Judge Valjean Biddison, at the direction of Governor Robertson, June 9. It was in actual session 13 days and made three reports. Exactly 100 true bills were returned, according to figures available. There were 95 indictments against alleged law violators, and five accusations against officers. Of the number accused, 79 are white and 21 negroes.

The grand jury in fixing the blame for the riot, declared:

“We find that the recent riot was the direct result of an effort on the part of a certain group of colored men who appeared at the court house on the night of May 31, 1921, for the purpose of protecting one Dick Rowland then and now in the custody of the sheriff of Tulsa county for an alleged assault upon a young white woman.”