Bob Bates has been charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Eric Harris

By Steve Helling
Updated April 14, 2015 05:40 PM
Credit: Tulsa Sheriff's Office

A reserve deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of a man who was killed during a sting operation.

Bob Bates, a 73-year-old insurance executive who moonlighted as a reserve deputy, is accused of fatally shooting Eric Harris, 44.

It all began on April 2, when the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office began a sting to buy illegal firearms from Harris. During the operation, Harris became suspicious and tried to flee. Officers caught him and tackled him to the ground.

The incident was caught on video.

During the chaos of the videotaped moment, Bates can be heard shouting, “Taser! Taser!” before firing his gun once, hitting Harris.

It appears that Bates quickly realized that he had discharged his gun rather than his taser. “Oh, I shot him,” he says on the video. “I’m sorry!”

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s office has defended Bates, saying he committed no crime and alleging that Harris had a history of violence against police officers.

“[Bates] made an error, Sheriff Stanley Glanz told Tulsa World. “How many errors are made in an operating room every week?

The District Attorney’s Office says that the shooting rises to the level of criminal culpability.

“Mr. Bates is charged with second-degree manslaughter involving culpable negligence,” District Attorney Stephen Kunzwieler told reporters Monday. “Oklahoma law defines culpable negligence as ‘the omission to do something which a reasonably careful person would do, or the lack of the usual ordinary care and caution in the performance of an act usually and ordinarily exercised by a person under similar circumstances and conditions.’ ”

According to documents released by the sheriff’s office, Bates has been a longtime benefactor of the police force. He has purchased vehicles and equipment, including a $5,000 machine that extracts fingerprints from evidence.

Sheriff Glanz denies that Bates’ contributions have resulted in special treatment. “We have a lot of people giving themselves to the community,” he said.

If convicted of second degree manslaughter, Bates could face four years in state prison.

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