Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Charged in Shooting Death

A Tulsa County Sheriff's Office reserve deputy who shot and killed an illegal gun sale suspect has been charged with second degree manslaughter. Robert Charles "Bob" Bates, 73, was a Tulsa County reserve deputy who was working as part of a drug task force that set up a sting in which Eric Harris, a convicted felon, illegally sold a firearm to an undercover officer. Video of the incident shows that when Harris realized he was caught in a sting, he got out of the undercover officer's vehicle and ran. During the pursuit, Bates is heard announcing that he is about to deploy a taser. His announcement if followed by a gunshot, and Bates saying, "I shot him. I'm sorry." Harris, 44, died at a hospital an hour later. Since the shooting, there has been a media frenzy. News outlets make headlines out of the fact that Bates was a white officer and Harris was a black suspect. Bates is also criticized for his role as a volunteer reserve deputy and sheriff's department donor, with some reports--and the attorney for Harris's family--calling him a "pay to play" deputy. Bates was not only a reserve deputy donating his time, but he also donated directly to the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office by purchasing vehicles and equipment for the TCSO. He is also a supporter of the current Tulsa County Sheriff, having donated $2,500 to Sheriff Stanley Glanz's re-election campaign. But are these circumstances--race and wealth--contributing factors in the shooting, or are they merely red herrings that distract from the true circumstances of the incident? Following the shooting, Bob Bates has been charged in Tulsa County with second degree manslaughter in Harris's death. Title 21 Section 716 of the Oklahoma statutes defines second degree manslaughter as an act of culpable negligence that results in death: "Every killing of one human being by the act, procurement or culpable negligence of another, which, under the provisions of this chapter, is not murder, nor manslaughter in the first degree, nor excusable nor justifiable homicide, is manslaughter in the second degree." According to Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, it was Bates's culpable negligence in accidentally discharging his firearm rather than his taser that resulted in Harris's death. The penalty for second degree manslaughter is 2 to 4 years in prison. Bates's defense attorney says that his client should not have been charged at all and calls the charge a response to media hype rather than an accurate reflection of the incident. The defense lawyer says that the shooting was clearly accidental and calls the reserve deputy's mistake a result of "slip and capture," in which a person intends to do one thing but accidentally does something else in a high-stress situation. The attorney says that Bates is upset by the incident: "Obviously he is very upset about what happened. He feels badly. 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." Bates surrendered to authorities and was released from the Tulsa County Jail on $25,000 bond.

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