Tulsa reserve deputy who accidentally shot suspect charged with second degree manslaughter

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Robert Bates

TULSA, Okla. – A Tulsa County reserve deputy who shot and killed a man during an undercover operation was charged with Second-Degree Manslaughter in the death of Eric Harris.

Officials say 73-year-old Robert Bates accidentally grabbed his gun instead of his Taser as he tried to help subdue a suspect black market gun dealer.

Instead of tasing the suspect, he shot him.

Eric Courtney Harris

Eric Harris

The incident happened after a sting operation.

Video shows Harris pinned to the ground as an officer calls for a Taser.

But in place of an electric clicking sound, a gunshot rings out.

A voice can be heard saying, “Oh! I shot him! I’m sorry!” Another officer screams out, “He shot him! He shot him!”

Harris is heard telling the officers he was shot and that he is losing his breath.

“You f**king ran! Shut the f**k up!” an officer yells back at him. “F**k your breath,” he said.

Tulsa Police Sgt. Jim Clark defended the officer’s language, saying the deputy experienced auditory exclusion, never heard the gunshot and thought the suspect was out of breath from running.

“They did not know that he was shot at this time. They had audio exclusion. They was at a point where they couldn’t hear. They didn’t even hear the gunshot go off. The officers did not know that Mr. Harris had been shot,” Clark said.

Officials say Harris was treated at the scene by EMSA medics and taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

On Monday, District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler charged Bates with second-degree manslaughter involving culpable negligence.

“Mr. Bates is charged with Second-Degree Manslaughter involving culpable negligence. Oklahoma law defines culpable negligence as ‘the omission to do something which a reasonably careful person would do, or the lack of the usual ordinary care and caution in the performance of an act usually and ordinarily exercised by a person under similar circumstances and conditions,” said DA Steve Kunzweiler.  “The defendant is presumed to be innocent under the law but we will be prepared to present evidence at future court hearings.”

Bates has been a reserve deputy since 2008.  He was named Reserve Deputy of the Year in 2011, according to the Sheriff’s Office website.

You can watch video of the incident below:

 

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