Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Robert Bates has been charged with manslaughter after shooting and killing a man named Eric Courtney Harris. Bates was supposed to use his Taser but mistakenly took out his handgun and shot Harris dead.
The incident was confirmed when a video was released by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, as previously reported by Morning News USA.
A written statement issued by Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen A. Kunzweiler says that Bates is charged with second-degree manslaughter, which also involves culpable negligence. If Bates is found guilty of the charges, he would go behind bars for not less than four years.
Scott Wood, an attorney representing Bates’ family, said that the shooting was an excusable offense. Harris’ family, on the other hand, believes the killing was unjustified and thus needs a thorough investigation.
“We believe the video itself proves that it was an accident of misfortune that occurred while Deputy Bates was fulfilling his duties as a reserve deputy,” Wood said, as quoted by CNN. “He is not guilty of second-degree manslaughter.”
Questions arise as to why 73-year-old Bates was deployed to carry out the operation, especially for a CEO of an insurance company certified as a reserve deputy with no proper training.
Daniel Smolen, an attorney for the family of Harris, said Bates paid a huge amount of money to play as a cop during his extra time.
“It’s absolutely mind boggling that you have a wealthy businessman who’s been essentially deputized to go play like he’s some outlaw, like he’s just cleaning up the streets.”
Bates had gone into a state of shock and disbelief after realizing he actually fired his gun. He also told investigators that he strongly believed Harris also had a gun.
“Obviously he is very upset about what happened,” Wood said about Bates. “He feels badly.”
He added, “The incident completely took him by surprise. He has all the requisite training. He is TASER-certified, and if you watch the video you know he was quite shocked when his gun went off.”
Andre Harris, brother of the deceased, said that his brother was an innocent, non-violent and peace-loving person. He discredited notions that the shooting of his brother had something to do with racial discrimination.