An Oklahoma jury on Wednesday found a sheriff’s deputy guilty of second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed suspect.
Robert Bates, an ex-volunteer reserve sheriff deputy for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, never denied killing Eric Courtney Harris last year.
Bates, 74, said he meant to use his Taser stun gun, not his revolver, on the suspect, who had been tackled by other deputies and was being held on the ground.
In closing argument to the jury, defense lawyer Clark Brewster said Bates should be be thanked for trying to help his fellow deputies. He displayed the stun gun and Bates’ pistol and showed how they were similar size and weight.
“He got out of his vehicle to man up and help,” Brewster said. “I truly believe you will find this was an accident driven to this point by the actions of Mr. Harris.”
Prosecutor John David Luton told the jury Bates was nodding off in his car prior to the arrest and that none of the other officers drew the wrong weapon that day.
“Bob Bates didn’t act with usual and ordinary care,” Luton said in his closing argument. “He also didn’t do what a reasonable person would do under similar circumstances. … Eric Harris deserved to be chased, he deserved to be tackled, he deserved to be arrested. He did not deserve to be killed by reserve deputy Bob Bates.”
The charge against Bates is a felony. He could be sentenced to four years in prison.