Oklahoma sheriff apologizes for fatal shooting by reserve deputy

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 20, 2015 10:50 AM

By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz apologized on Monday to the family of an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by a white reserve deputy who has said he mistakenly pulled his gun instead of a Taser.

In a televised news conference, Glanz acknowledged his long-time friendship with reserve deputy Robert Bates, 73. Bates has said he meant to use a stun gun during an undercover operation he participated in.

He has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the April 2 death of 44-year-old Eric Harris. If convicted, Bates could face between two and four years in prison.

Harris was shot and killed when he fled after allegedly trying to sell a gun illegally to an undercover officer. Bates tried to help officers subdue Harris.

Lawyers for the Harris family said on Monday they were not planning to file a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office. But attorney Daniel Smolen, who is representing the family, said there were questions about whether or not Bates was properly trained.

Glanz defended Bates' training record and qualifications and denied falsification of training documents alleged in a news report. The department is trying to locate all documents on Bates' training and will provide records as they are found, he added.

"We are sorry Eric was taken from you. For this I am sorry and my sympathy goes out to that family," Glanz said.

The death of Harris was the latest in a series of fatal shootings of black men that have fueled a national debate about police treatment of minorities.

Glanz said two sheriff's deputies involved in the incident have been reassigned after receiving threats.

Asked whether Bates, an insurance executive who had financially supported the sheriff's department, should have been involved in the operation, Glanz said: "Yes, he should have been." But he also said the department would review national standards for reserve officers and that age could be an element in the review.

"I have a lot of people that dedicate a lot of time and effort ... to this office and this community and I'm not ashamed of that, and we follow the national standards," he said when asked about using volunteer deputies who also make donations to the department.

Glanz said Bates had been his insurance agent and that they had visited the Bahamas together.

(Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Suzannah Gonzales, Alan Crosby, Carey Gillam and Mohammad Zargham)