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Ex-reserve deputy speaks for first time since conviction

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TULSA, Okla. – A former Tulsa reserve deputy who was sentenced to serve four years in prison after shooting an unarmed suspect is speaking out for the first time since his conviction.

Robert Bates, an ex-volunteer reserve sheriff deputy for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, never denied killing Eric Courtney Harris last year. But he said he meant to use his Taser stun gun, not his revolver.

“I just made a mistake,” Bates told NBC News. “It was an accident. I didn’t do it on purpose. That’s the one thing that has pretty much ruined my life.”

On April 27, 2016, a jury found him guilty of second-degree manslaughter. The 74-year-old was sentenced to serve four years in prison.

Speaking with NBC News, Bates said he doesn’t expect to survive his four-year prison sentence.

“I’m pretty much been condemned,” Bates told NBC News from jail this month.

He said that due to his enlarged heart, his four-year prison term is likely a death sentence.

“I’m probably done,” he said. “I mean, I don’t want to die in prison but I suppose it’s a good possibility.”

Bates told NBC News that he didn’t just regret the shooting, he also regrets becoming a reserve deputy in the first place.

 

Bates said he wishes he could tell the Harris family how sorry he is, but he doesn’t think it will happen.

“It keeps me up at night. I can’t sleep,” he said, crying.

The Harris family spoke out earlier this month saying they have forgiven the former reserve deputy.

“I was angry because he killed my dad but I’m not gonna let him have that power over me,” son Aidan Fraley, 17, said Wednesday. “Even if he hadn’t forgiven himself, we have.”

Aidan’s mother, Cathy Fraley, added: “I understand Mr. Bates has apologized and we have forgiven him, but there are consequences.”