TULSA, Okla. – The Tulsa County reserve deputy who says he mistook his gun for a Taser spoke with TODAY about the deputy-involved shooting that left one man dead.
“First and foremost let me apologize to the family of Eric Harris,” the reserve deputy, Robert Bates, told TODAY’s Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview. “I still can’t believe it happened.”
“I rate this as number one on my list of things in my life that I regret,” Bates, told TODAY in his first public remarks since the deadly encounter April 2.
Robert Bates, 73, is charged with Second-Degree Manslaughter in the shooting death of Eric Harris, who police say ran from authorities after trying to sell an illegal handgun during an undercover sting.
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!”
Bates is an insurance executive who volunteered with the sheriff’s department.
He demonstrated on TODAY that he kept his Taser and gun in different places.
He says the Taser was tucked into his protective vest, and the gun was on his side.
“You must believe me. This can happen to anyone,” he told TODAY.
Bates says he was shocked after he heard the shot that he fired.
“Oh, my God, what has happened?” Bates said he thought.
He assures that he did not fire gun on purpose.
“The laser light is the same on each weapon,” he said. “I saw the light and I squeezed the trigger and then realized I dropped the gun. This was not an intentional thing, I had no desire to ever take anyone’s life.”
He says he is still shocked that he took someone’s life.
“I never considered the repercussions of what I had just done. It was shock. I can tell you it stayed with me for a number of days. I’m not at all sure it’s not still with me today,” he said. “Lack of sleep, inability to concentrate. All of those, plus more. I still can’t believe it happened.”
Bates says the suggestion that he ‘paid to play a cop‘ is “unbelievably unfair.”
He also addressed the Tulsa World report suggesting that he was given credit for field training he never completed and firearms certifications he never received.
“That is not correct,” he said. “That is absolutely the truth. I have it in writing.”
Bates’ attorney says the former Sheriff’s Office official who gave the Tulsa World that information is not a credible source, since he was terminated about seven years ago and has since been charged with First-Degree Murder.
Bates turned himself into authorities last week. He was released on a $25,000 bond.