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Jury: Former Tulsa County Reserve Deputy guilty of manslaughter

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UPDATE: 4/27/16  Former Tulsa County Reserve Deputy was convicted of Second-Degree manslaughter after fatally shooting Eric Harris. Bates claimed he meant to use his Taser but accidentally fired his handgun instead.

The jury reached that decision late Wednesday afternoon.

(Original Story)  — Some supervisors at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office were told to forge Robert Bates’ training records, and three who refused were reassigned to less desirable duties, the Tulsa World reported.

Bates’ training has come under scrutiny since the 73-year-old volunteer deputy killed Eric Harris on April 2. Bates claims he meant to use his Taser, but accidentally fired his handgun instead.

Dylan Goforth, one of the two Tulsa World reporters on the story, said the paper starting hearing “almost immediately” from different sources that Bates’ training records had been falsified.

The newspaper said the Sheriff’s Office provided a list of the courses Bates received credit for, but did not give details such as the names of the supervisors who signed off on the training.

Ziva Branstetter, the other Tulsa World reporter, said she has been asking for the names of the supervisors involved.

“You would think the sheriff’s office, if in fact there has been no pressure applied, no falsification of records, that they would be forthcoming with these documents,” she told CNN’s “New Day.”

“We’ve asked for them. They’ve said they don’t believe they’re public records.”

The Tulsa World story does not say who allegedly asked the supervisors to falsify the training records, or why.

But the orders apparently started years ago, before Harris’ death, “back when (Bates) was trying to get on as a deputy,” Branstetter said.

The sheriff’s office strongly denied the allegations in the Tulsa World’s report. It also declined a CNN interview to respond to the claims.

But in an email to CNN, the department’s Maj. Shannon Clark said the lack of named sources in the Tulsa World report leaves him dubious.

“Just keep in mind that the Tulsa World reporter cannot validate her sources and claims anonymity, which leaves us skeptical that her claims are unsubstantiated and deceptive,” Clark wrote.

Bates was classified as an advanced reserve deputy for the sheriff’s office. That means he would have had to complete 480 hours of the Field Training Officer (FTO) program to maintain that classification, the paper said.

Bates would also have needed firearms certification training.

Missing gun certification records

But the sheriff himself has acknowledged there is a problem with Bates’ gun certification records — his office can’t find them.

“Bob went out and qualified with three different weapons with an instructor,” Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz told KFAQ radio this week.

He said Bates “qualified with a young lady that was a firearms instructor.” But she is no longer there.

“She has left the sheriff’s office and is now a Secret Service agent,” Glanz told KFAQ. “And we’re trying to get a hold of her and talk to her about … we can’t find the records that she supposedly turned in. So we’re going to talk to her and find out if for sure he did qualify with those.”

Inconsistent statements

Even before the Tulsa World story, inconsistencies were apparent in Bates’ history with the sheriff’s department.

In his statement to investigators, Bates said he “became an advanced TCSO Reserve Deputy in 2007.”

But the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office has said Bates had been a reserve deputy since 2008.

It also said Bates had undergone 300 hours of training. That would be less than the 480 hours of field training that the Tulsa World said is required to be an “advanced” reserve deputy, which Bates claimed to be.

Paid to play a cop?

Bates, an insurance company CEO, contributed $2,500 to the sheriff’s re-election campaign. He has also donated vehicles and video equipment to the sheriff’s office.

But Clark has strongly denied accusations that Bates paid to play a cop. He said Bates is one of many volunteers who have contributed to the agency.

“No matter how you cut it up, Deputy Bates met all the criteria on the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training to be in the role that he was in,” he said.

Clark also said the sheriff’s department stands by everything in Bates’ training record and that he completed all the training listed.

Bates is now charged with second-degree manslaughter for Harris’ death. He turned himself in to authorities Tuesday and immediately posted bail of $25,000.

Rep. Mike Shelton is calling on the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Oklahoma Attorney General to investigate the circumstances surrounding the shooting.

“There are too many variables here for me and anyone else to believe that this investigation is going to be impartial,” said Shelton. “We simply cannot afford to have the public’s trust in our law enforcement eroded any further. We need to remove the appearance of personal and political biases from this case, so I hope these public agencies will intervene immediately.”

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