Robert Bates, a 74-year-old volunteer reserve sheriff's deputy in Oklahoma, fatally shot Eric Harris, a 44-year-old unarmed man, who was on the ground and subdued by other police officers last year. Bates said he accidentally pulled the trigger on his gun instead of using his taser. Bates was found guilty of manslaughter by a jury on Wednesday afternoon, Reuters reports.
The case raised questions about why a volunteer deputy was allowed to be on the scene at all, and whether he'd received enough training to handle a gun and taser. Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz was indicted for misconduct last year after allegedly trying to cover up Bates' lack of training from the police department, CBS News reported:
An internal investigation shows that other deputies were concerned that Bates hadn't received proper training. They described his behavior in the field as "scary," but they were told by supervisors to "stop messing with [Bates] because he does a lot…for the County."
The shooting was caught on police body cam. The footage shows Harris running from police after trying to sell illegal guns to an undercover police officer. After officers caught up with Harris and had detained him on the ground, Bates is seen approaching and yelling "Taser! Taser!" before firing a shot at Harris from his gun.
“I shot him,” Bates can be heard saying. “I’m sorry.”
“He shot me! He shot me, man. Oh, my god. I’m losing my breath,” Harris says.
“Fuck your breath,” another officer says.
The jury recommended that Bates should be sentenced a maximum of four years in prison. Harris' family is also suing the county in a separate civil suit. "I honestly wasn't sure that the guilty verdict was going to come back, and when it did, I was kind of blown away," Harris' sister-in-law Sheila Dake-Harris told reporters.