Reserve deputy turns himself in to face manslaughter charge

AP News
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Posted: Apr 14, 2015 6:40 PM
Reserve deputy turns himself in to face manslaughter charge

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A 73-year-old Oklahoma volunteer sheriff's deputy who authorities said fatally shot a suspect after confusing his stun gun and handgun was booked into the county jail Tuesday on a manslaughter charge.

Robert Bates surrendered to the Tulsa County Jail and was released after posting $25,000 bond. Bates' attorney, Clark Brewster, told reporters that his client would not make a statement, then ushered him into a waiting SUV.

Brewster said Bates is due to make an initial court appearance April 21.

The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office said Bates, an insurance executive who was volunteering on an undercover operation in Tulsa, accidentally shot 44-year-old Eric Harris on April 2. Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler charged Bates on Monday with second-degree manslaughter, punishable by up to four years in prison.

A video of the incident recorded by a deputy with a sunglass camera and released Friday shows a deputy chase and tackle Harris, who authorities said tried to sell an illegal gun to an undercover officer.

A gunshot rang out as the deputy wrestled with Harris on the ground and a man says: "Oh, I shot him. I'm sorry."

Harris was treated by medics at the scene and died at a hospital.

In a phone interview after the booking, Brewster said "there's no question" his client is not guilty and described Bates' actions after the shooting as "honest and transparent."

A spokeswoman for Kunzweiler said he would not comment on the case Tuesday.

In the video, another deputy appears to restrain Harris by holding his head to the ground with his knee. When Harris complains that he has been shot and is struggling to breathe, a deputy replies in a profanity-laden outburst that he was shot because he ran and that he should stop talking.

A Harris family statement released Tuesday said while there are "many good deputies" at the sheriff's office "who perform their jobs in the right way," Harris' treatment "clearly shows that there is a deep-seated problem within" the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office.

"Sheriff (Stanley) Glanz's recent public statements also make it clear that he does not even see the problem and has no plans to change the practices within the TCSO," the statement said. "While Sheriff Glanz acknowledges that an 'error' was made when Eric was killed, he has yet to even apologize to our family."

A spokesman for the sheriff's office declined to comment on the statement Tuesday.

Andre Harris, the victim's brother, has said he does not believe the shooting was racially motivated. Bates is white and Harris is black.

Tulsa Police Sgt. Jim Clark, who investigated the shooting as an independent consultant at the request of the sheriff's office, concluded that Bates had been so engrossed in the stress of the moment that he did not think clearly about what he had in his hand when he fired his handgun rather than a stun gun.

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Reed reported from Little Rock, Arkansas.