Robert “Bob” Bates, the Tulsa County reserve deputy who “inadvertently” shot and killed a suspect when he grabbed his gun instead of his taser, was charged with second-degree manslaughter Monday.
The incident occurred earlier this month during a sting operation when 44-year-old Eric Harris, a convicted felon, sold a 9mm handgun and ammunition to an undercover officer. As additional law enforcement closed in to make an arrest, Harris fled, leading officers on a foot pursuit. Recently released body cam footage captured the moments when everything went awry.
Officers attempted to subdue Harris, who was reported to have been reaching towards his waistband. Authorities were unsure at the time whether or not he was armed, but was aware that Harris had a history of violence, particularly toward law enforcement.
Bates can be heard saying, “Taser! Taser!” as they struggle to gain control of Harris, but moments later a single gunshot is heard, followed by Bates saying, “I shot him! I’m sorry!”
Another unidentified officer can be heard saying, “Oh shit! Shit man, you shot him! You shot him!”
Officers continue to restrain Bates, who said he was losing his breath. Another unidentified officer responds by saying, “Fuck your breath.”
Reports indicate that Harris continued to be combative and uncooperative even after paramedics arrived and tried to administer aid.
“No human being deserves to be treated with such contempt,” the family of Harris, who called the officers’ response “appalling,” said in a statement Monday, NBC News reported.
Initially, Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz stood behind Bates’ actions, cited the fatal shooting as an accident, and determined that no crime had been committed by Bates.
“He made an error,” Glanz said. “How many errors are made in an operating room every week?”
However, once the case was turned over to Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen Kunzweiler, charges were announced. Kunzweiler determined Harris’ death was the result of “culpable negligence,” which he defined 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.”
Attorneys representing the Harris family have accused the sheriff’s office of being corrupt and Glanz being soft on Bates, who has donated thousands of dollars to Glanz’s campaign funds, as well as cars to the department.
Glanz denies such treatment.