Ex-reserve drew pistol, stun gun weeks before fatal shooting

AP News
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Posted: Apr 01, 2016 4:04 PM
Ex-reserve drew pistol, stun gun weeks before fatal shooting

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Video released by an Oklahoma sheriff's office shows a former volunteer deputy pointing a stun gun at a suspected drug dealer and briefly drawing his firearm just weeks before he fatally shot an unarmed man after allegedly mistaking his handgun for a stun gun.

The video recorded by two Tulsa County sheriff's deputies shows Robert Bates drawing a stun gun on a naked man who was lying on the ground in front of a mobile home on March 12, 2015. It also shows Bates talking to the suspect and briefly drawing his firearm before re-holstering it as a deputy tells him, "stop, stop."

It's unclear from the video where Bates aimed his firearm. The sheriff's office said Friday that the deputy was only telling Bates to quit talking while deputies cleared the mobile home.

Three weeks after the incident, Bates fatally shot Eric Harris while working with deputies during a sting investigation into illegal gun sales. Bates — who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the case — is scheduled to go on trial later this month.

Bates has said he mistook his firearm for his stun gun when he shot Harris, who was unarmed and being restrained by other deputies at the time.

The video, first reported by The Frontier and KOTV-TV, was released by the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office.

Harris family attorney Dan Smolen said the video was "alarming" and more evidence that Bates lacked the training needed to be involved in a drug raid or any other field operation.

"The video shows that Bates is overly-aggressive and incompetent. Bates approaches a naked, unarmed, handcuffed and helpless suspect in a dangerously unprofessional manner," Smolen said in a statement Friday.

Harris' family has filed a lawsuit against Bates and former Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz, who has pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he failed to publicly release an internal 2009 office memo that questioned Bates' qualifications. The memo said superiors knew that Bates — a longtime friend of Glanz who donated thousands of dollars in vehicles, cash and equipment to the sheriff's office — didn't have enough training but pressured others to look the other way.

Clark Brewster, an attorney for Bates, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment on the video.

Deputy Justin Green, a sheriff's office spokesman, said no use-of-force report was filed after the March 12, 2015 incident because Bates properly drew his stun gun to back deputies searching the house.

Green disputed that Bates aimed his stun gun on the suspected drug dealer, saying he was aiming at the door. But in the video, Bates can be seen looking down at the moaning man, who is covered by a blanket, asking him what hurts, while holding the stun gun aimed down above the man's head.