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Tulsa County suspends reserve deputy program amid investigation

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TULSA, Okla. – After a deadly accidental shooting by a Tulsa County Reserve Deputy, authorities with the department say they are working to restore the public’s confidence in the agency.

On April 2, deputies were conducting an undercover investigation into illegal arms dealing.

Officials say Eric Harris was one of the subjects of that investigation.

After seeing patrol cars pull alongside a vehicle he was in, Harris took off.

A deputy’s body camera was rolling as he chased Harris and tackled him to the ground.

In the video, you can hear a deputy call for a taser.

Instead, a gunshot rings out.

At that point, reserve deputy Robert Bates said, “I shot him! I’m sorry!”

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

Reserve deputy Robert Bates says he meant to grab his taser but accidentally grabbed and fired his gun instead.

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office investigated the shooting and determined that Bates  committed no crime.

However, he has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in Harris’ death.

In the wake of the shooting, the Tulsa World reported that some of Bates’ training records were forged by the sheriff’s office.

Harris’ family alleges that Bates didn’t have the proper training, but was allowed to be a reserve deputy because he donated vehicles and other equipment to the department.

An internal inquiry by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office in 2009 concluded that Bates was shown special treatment and that training policies were violated regarding his role with the agency.

This week, Tulsa County officials said the reserve deputy program will be inactive as of 6 p.m. on Thursday night.

A memo obtained by KOKI says recent events ‘raised questions about the reserve deputy training’ and negatively affected public confidence in the program.

It goes on to state that Major Eric Kitch will conduct a review of training records while an outside agency reviews the entire sheriff’s office.

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