Deputy charged with Second-Degree Manslaughter

Robert Charles Bates

Robert Charles Bates

A Tulsa County reserve deputy who shot and killed a man during an undercover operation on April 2 was charged today with Second-Degree Manslaughter in the death.

Second-Degree Manslaughter charges were filed against Robert Charles Bates, 73, in the shooting death of Eric Courtney Harris, 44. Bates has been a reserve deputy since 2008, and was assigned to the sheriff’s Violent Crimes Task Force.

Eric Courtney Harris

Eric Courtney Harris

Deputies were trying to buy a gun from Harris in an undercover sting, when Harris ran and deputies pursued and began a physical struggle with him, said Tulsa County Major Shannon Clark. Bates thought he had pulled a stun gun, rather than his firearm when he shot Harris, according to sheriff’s office investigators.

Harris was treated at the scene by EMSA medics and taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“Mr. Bates is charged with Second-Degree Manslaughter involving culpable negligence. 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,’” Kunzweiler said.

“The defendant is presumed to be innocent under the law but we will be prepared to present evidence at future court hearings,” Kunzweiler said.

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office released video Saturday showing the fatal shooting of Eric Courtney Harris — and Sheriff’s office says the killing is the result of a 73-year-old reserve officer’s “inadvertent” mistake.

This first video below shows the auto and foot pursuit of Harris as he runs from officers and then is apprehended.

Content warning: violence and strong language:

As multiple officers grapple with Harris, a voice in the background says, “Taser!” and fires a gunshot.

“Oh!” the voice says. “I shot him! I’m sorry!”

“He shot me!” a bleeding, pinned Harris yells. “He shot me, man. Oh, my god. I’m losing my breath.”

“You f***ing ran! Shut the f*** up!” one of the cops pinning Harris responds. “F*** your breath.”

Harris was caught in a sting allegedly offering to sell illegal weapons to an undercover officer on April 2, but bolted when backup officers arrived to arrest him. The video below shows the original sting and Bates bolting from the car as police arrive.

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