Oklahoma Reserve Deputy Charged With Murder for Shooting Restrained Man

April 13, 2015 Updated: April 13, 2015    

TULSA, Okla.—Prosecutors charged a reserve sheriff’s deputy with manslaughter Monday in the death of a man who was fatally shot as he lay on the ground at the officer’s feet.

Tulsa County prosecutors filed a second-degree manslaughter charge against 73-year-old Robert Bates.

A police investigator has said Bates, who is white, thought he drew a stun gun, not his handgun, when he fired at 44-year-old Eric Harris, who was black, in the April 2 incident.

Bates is charged with second-degree manslaughter “involving culpable negligence,” Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said in a statement.

In this photo provided by the Tulsa County, Oklahoma, Sheriff's Office is Tulsa County reserve deputy Robert Bates. Police say Bates, a 73-year-old white reserve deputy, thought he was holding a stun gun, not his handgun, when he fired at 44-year-old Eric Harris in an April 2 incident. Harris, who is black, was treated by medics at the scene and died in a Tulsa hospital. (Tulsa County Sheriff's Office via AP)
In this photo provided by the Tulsa County, Oklahoma, Sheriff’s Office is Tulsa County reserve deputy Robert Bates. Police say Bates, a 73-year-old white reserve deputy, thought he was holding a stun gun, not his handgun, when he fired at 44-year-old Eric Harris in an April 2 incident. Harris, who is black, was treated by medics at the scene and died in a Tulsa hospital. (Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

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.

A video of the incident shot by deputies with sunglass cameras and released Friday at the request of the victim’s family, shows a deputy chase and tackle Harris, whom they said tried to sell an illegal gun to an undercover officer.

As the deputy subdues Harris on the ground, a gunshot rings out and a man says: “Oh, I shot him. I’m sorry.”

Harris was treated by medics at the scene and died in a Tulsa hospital.

A telephone message left Monday with Bates’ attorney, Scott Woods, was not immediately returned.

In this photo provided by the Tulsa County, Oklahoma, Sheriff's Office is Eric Harris, 44. Police say Robert Bates, a white reserve sheriff's deputy, thought he was holding a stun gun, not his handgun, when he fatally shot Harris. (Tulsa County Sheriff's Office via AP)
In this photo provided by the Tulsa County, Oklahoma, Sheriff’s Office is Eric Harris, 44. Police say Robert Bates, a white reserve sheriff’s deputy, thought he was holding a stun gun, not his handgun, when he fatally shot Harris. (Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
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