A 73-year-old Tulsa reserve deputy, Robert Bates, has been charged with manslaughter after accidentally shooting an unarmed suspect, Eric Harris, while mistaking his handgun for a taser. Bates was helping with an undercover sting operation when he tried to help officers struggling to detain Harris as he fled the scene. However, instead of pulling out his taser, Bates pulled his handgun and fatally shot unarmed Harris while exclaiming, “I shot him! I am sorry!”
The LA Times reports that the family of Eric Harris is calling for a “truly independent entity” to investigate the incident. They also note that reserve deputy Robert Bates did not have the proper training to be involved in sting operations, and that he was simply a wealthy man paying to “play cop.”
“We do not believe that it is reasonable for a man who claims to have all the necessary training to mistake a pistol for a Taser. We do not believe it is reasonable for a 73-year-old insurance executive to be involved in a dangerous undercover sting operation. We do not believe it is reasonable – or responsible – for [the sheriff’s office] to accept gifts from a wealthy citizen who wants to be [a] ‘pay to play’ cop.”
The LA Times reports indicates that Bates was a millionaire that offered financial support to the sheriff’s department. Tulsa County Sheriff’s Maj. Shannon Clark admits that Bates provides money to the department in the form of donations. It was noted that Bates has donated equipment to the department, including “a couple cars” in recent years. However, Clark doesn’t seem to think there is anything wrong with utilizing millionaires in the reserve deputy program as he notes, “He [Bates] isn’t the only millionaire we’ve got” and says it isn’t uncommon for reserve deputies in Oklahoma to donate to the department.
“You have to remember, this is Oklahoma. It’s their way of giving back… Nobody would criticize if he gave to the Red Cross.”
However, as the Daily Beast reports, some former deputies say that Bates only had a place as a reserve deputy because of his money.
“Bob Bates came on board because he had all this money.”
The former deputy claims that not only does Bates donate to the sheriff’s department, but that he also takes the Sheriff and higher ups on cruises to the Bahamas and other exotic locations.
“[Bates] foots the bill. The sheriff just gave him free rein because he was treating him right. He bought his way into this position.”
Do you think that millionaires should be able to pay their way to a reserve deputy position? What type of training should reserve deputies have in order to ensure fatal shootings, like the Eric Harris death, do not occur?