Deputy who allegedly mistook Taser for gun charged

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TULSA — The Tulsa County deputy who shot and killed a man instead of using his Taser now faces a manslaughter charge.

Video shows Reserve Deputy Robert Bates announcing he is going to deploy his Taser after an undercover weapons sting on April 2, but then shooting Eric Courtney Harris in the back with a handgun.

In a written statement, Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen A. Kunzweiler said Bates is charged with second-degree manslaughter involving culpable negligence, defined by Oklahoma law 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.”

Investigators’ efforts to defend Bates and the other deputies involved in the arrest have sparked a mounting chorus of criticism online.

Police say Bates thought he pulled out his Taser but “inadvertently” fired his gun. They’ve painted Harris as a dangerous, possibly PCP-addled illegal gun dealer who had recently sold methamphetamine to undercover police and who fled police that day in such a way as to give the impression that he had a gun in his waistband.

Though Harris was later determined to be unarmed, Sgt. Jim Clark of the Tulsa Police Department, who has been brought in to review the case, excused the behavior of Bates and the officer who is heard cursing at Harris.

Clark said Bates, who was also one of the department’s benefactors, was the “victim” of something called “slip and capture,” where in a high-stress situation, you intend to do one thing and instead do something else.

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  • tootietuttle

    let me get this straight…the victim was selling illegal guns, right??…and would be thrown in jail for a number of years, like a lot of years but because of an inept 73 year old insurance executive who can’t tell a taser from a gun, his family will stand to gain a bundle from a lawsuit…you gotta love America…

  • David Kaye

    Not that the POS didn’t deserve to be shot, I mean what was he going to do with an illegally purchased gun; but by a 70+ YO ‘cop’ who can’t tell a taser from a gun ??

  • IP: 174.34.753

    He was not a policeman. He was not even a deputy. He was a reserve deputy with little training, (and clearly it was worthless). But he did donate lots of crap to the police so they handed him a government issued costume and a shiny badge, then allowed him to tag along on violent warrant services. Nothing wrong with that system as the sheriff bragged he has 100s of reserve deputies — all with their own ‘get out of jail free’ badges and attitude. Brilliant! Some folks are tired of the ‘us versus them’ war so they do whatever it takes to get behind the thin blue line.

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