Volunteer Sheriff’s Deputy Convicted of Manslaughter After Mistaking Gun for Taser

An Oklahoma jury found former volunteer sheriff’s deputy Robert Bates guilty of second-degree manslaughter after the 73-year-old mistook his gun for his Taser and shot Eric Courtney Harris during a felony sting operation, CNN, and multiple news outlets report.

Harris ran from officials moments after selling a gun to an undercover deputy. He was quickly brought to the ground, at which point Bates, who had been parked in a car several blocks away, approached the undercover agents with a gun in one hand and a Taser in the other, according to Assistant District Attorney John David Luton.

In a video taken at the incident, Bates can be clearly heard saying “Taser” (0:23 in the video above) and firing one round. He can then be heard saying, “Oh, I shot him. I’m sorry.”

According to the CNN report, defense lawyer Clark Brewster argued that, given the stress of the situation, Bates should be excused for his mistake. He displayed the Taser and the revolver, demonstrating the similar size and weight of both weapons.

Bates, Brewster said, “should be thanked for trying to help his fellow deputies.”

“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.”

The prosecution argued that Bates was criminally negligent and failed to exercise reasonable care.

Bates’ fellow deputies testified that the volunteer deputy should never have fired either weapon. To use a Taser safely “you’re supposed to wait to have a clear opening and then deploy,” said Deputy Ricardo Vaca. Vaca was one of the deputies who tackled Harris and believes Bates nearly killed him.

“I almost got killed,” Vaca said during the trial. “It makes me emotional. Inches to my right and I would have been killed.”

Deputies also testified that they observed Bates falling asleep in his car prior to the incident.

“Mr. Harris shouldn’t have been there that day, but it certainly didn’t give Bob Bates the right to kill him,” prosecutor Kevin Gray said.

One of the trial’s key considerations was whether or not Bates’ shot actually killed Harris. Two medical doctors testified for the defense, who agreed that the combination of a heart attack and a variety of drugs killed Harris, according to CNN and CBS News. But prosecution witness Cheryl Niblo, a forensic pathologist, testified that Harris’ death was a homicide caused by a gunshot.

Ultimately, the jury sided with the prosecution, deliberating less than three hours and recommending the maximum sentence of four years. Preliminary sentencing is set for May 31.

About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over two years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Jim November 18, 2016, 11:18 am

    If you commit a crime WHATEVER happens to you in the commission of that crime is YOUR fault not the fault of the people keeping us safe.
    Back the people who are there to help us not scumbags.

  • Dan May 8, 2016, 11:47 pm

    Mike…Please tell me your misspellings were deliberate or your comment is beyond invalid even if your point isn’t.

    Old duffer should never have been there. Sorry dude. We cant back every officer no matter what just because he’s an “Officer.” You screwed up. Now the BLM turds have one more notch their belt to fuck with the rest of us.

  • Matt May 6, 2016, 5:27 pm

    The individual deputy, is liable in this case, due to the fact he was not trained properly, inattentive to the situational awareness, and it appears that he was not up to most State physical training requirements. I venture a guess that the deceased family will sue the department next, and rightfully so, the Department Training Officer, or Senior Deputy should never have let this guy into the field situation he was placed in, NOT because of his age, or race; but it is apparent he was not competent in his policing skills, ie his level of force, and equipment. Any lack of proper training whether police, open-carry, concealed carry that is NOT obtained and kept up on puts the public and the individual at risk of making a horrible mistake.

    Doesn’t justify the criminals behavior though, and sometimes these mistakes by officers overshadow the fact that if people were not acting in a criminal fashion then this incident would never have taken place, and YES the person shot was a CRIMINAL, BADBOY, ETC so NO I do not have remorse for him, sorry. His family YES, He made his choices that led to his demise, and he may have died anyway that night due to his health conditions, even if the older deputy has followed proper training protocol. But the Deputy didn’t.

    Keep up on your training if you are a law enforcement officer in any capacity, and if you carry a weapon as the 2nd amendment allows train with it and go to the range and learn to shoot straight so you don’t inadvertently kill a bystander.

  • alex May 6, 2016, 8:51 am

    another wanna be cop who should have stayed home listening to his scanner and wacking off!!!

  • jack daugherty May 6, 2016, 8:41 am

    This makes the first time that I have ever heard of a policeman being convicted of killing anyone.

    • oldfuzz695 May 6, 2016, 10:28 am

      You need to subscribe to the Atlanta Journal newspaper. For the last 20 years, several police officers, including a sheriff have been convicted and sent to prison for murder. Check out New Orleans. Two are on death row. Several convicted during the Katrina incident. Click off your video games bro.

    • mocatz May 22, 2016, 10:44 pm

      Well here are some officers that have been convicted or are awaiting sentencing, for those who claim the police are never held accountable.
      Johannes Mehserle, Michael Slager, Ray Tensing, Jason Van Dyke.

  • ToddB May 6, 2016, 8:14 am

    I know police apologists really want to find some way, any way to somehow justify what happened. ‘Well if the guy hadn’t ran’ or ‘if he hadn’t been a criminal’. But completely ignore the fact this wannabe cop should never have had a gun, should not have been involved in anyway. Hes 74, way way past his prime, and if you read into the background of this story, even in his prime he couldn’t hack it as a cop. So he paid to play. And thats what it was, he got to run around pretending to be a cop. I see the older reserve deputies, but they aren’t armed, directing traffic at events. This guys lame excuse was he mistook his taser for his gun. The department even tried to say see they are similar weight etc. I have handled a taser, its plastic, and weighs nothing close to a metal pistol. Nor do they work the same. This guy had a revolver, the triggers aren’t even close. And ignores another fact, he was going to zap the guy while the other officers were holding him down, Im sure that would have worked out well. But instead of almost shocking his fellow officers, he nearly shot one of them. As soon as the guy was cuffed I would have taken ALL his weapons, period. And this lame worn out clique of well he was a criminal, so guess that means he deserved to be shot in the back as he was held helpless by several men? Or the ploy of well it was the drugs and heart attack that killed him, not the bullet. So just put a band aid on it, walk it off. If bullets are not lethal, why are cops so in fear of them then? Cant be both ways. But at least the department didn’t circle the wagons to protect the guy as usual. The sheriff may have tried but was to worried about his own neck, and his fellow officers testified against him, that should tell us something right there.

    • Texas16 May 6, 2016, 11:02 am

      You pretty much pointed out all the logic of the case.
      I just wonder if this wannabe cop feel any sincere remorse for the murder he did. It is sick to read the poster below who attempted to make excuse for this murderer.

  • Mark May 6, 2016, 2:45 am

    If you or I ‘accidentally’ killed someone, we would be held to account.
    Since when do cops (and several are my friends) get a free walk regarding the law?
    If they can’t handle the stress, they need to find another job. And this volunteer?
    An old dude that had no business playing at being a cop.
    He got what he deserved – he unjustifiably took a life. He will get out of jail, but that dead person will never come back.

  • mike April 29, 2016, 9:08 am

    I don’t know. I havent been in a situation like that, and hope I never am. But I think this is crazy. You know what is this idiot wasn’t trying to do the crime he was trying to do, this would have never happened. I mean it is very unfortunate that he died, it very unfortunate when any one dies, but don’t break the law!! I want to see the jury or judge go threw the stress the officer did and see how hard it is to think straight! I think it’s crazy. But I didn’t hear the hole case so mabye there was something more??

    • Tyler May 6, 2016, 6:33 am

      Absolutely right, that man broke the law and he shouldn’t have been there. Unfortunately, neither should Mr. Bates. He wasn’t an officer, he was basically an honorary deputy with almost no training who used his influence from his donations to be part of operations he had no business being on. Not only did his inexperience cost that man his life, he endangered the lives of the officers who were doing there jobs. Criminal or not, that man didn’t earn a death sentence and in my opinion Mr. Bates punishment is lax at best, he was really the one who shouldn’t have been there.

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