Deputy Charged for Killing Black Man 'by Mistake'

Robert Bates faces second-degree manslaughter
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2015 5:17 PM CDT

A 73-year-old reserve deputy in Tulsa, Okla., was charged today with second-degree manslaughter for shooting an unarmed black man while arresting him, Tulsa World reports. Bob Bates says he mistakenly drew his firearm believing it was a Taser, then fired the bullet that killed Eric Harris, 44. "He made an error," says Sheriff Stanley Glanz, who is Bates' longtime friend. "How many errors are made in an operating room every week?" Asked whether the shooting was justified, Glanz says, "That is a hard word for me to answer. It was unintentional." Bates' charge involves "culpable negligence," which Oklahoma law defines as "the omission to do something which a reasonably careful person would do," says the Tulsa County DA's office.

The shooting also shines a spotlight on the hiring of reserve deputies, who can be young or old, have varying levels of experience, and may get the gig after making sizeable donations, the Washington Post reports. "These people drop four or five grand and dress up to look like police," a sheriff's association president tells Salon. "I have a problem with that." Others note that reserve programs offer entry-level positions leading to full-time cop jobs, allow retired officers to keep working, and give departments a fall-back when officers take vacations. As for Bates, he was Glanz's insurance agent, chaired his 2012 re-election committee, and donated $2,500 to the campaign, Tulsa World reports. Glanz, 72, makes no secret of their association: "Bob and I both love to fish," he says. "Is it wrong to have a friend?" (More police shooting stories.)

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