Tulsa Sheriff’s Volunteer|Apologizes for Killing

TULSA (CN) – The 73-year-old volunteer sheriff’s deputy who killed an unarmed black man in Tulsa apologized to the man’s family Friday, and rebutted claims that his own training records had been falsified.
     “First and foremost, let me apologize to the family of Eric Harris,” Robert Bates said Friday on the NBC “Today” show. “I still can’t believe it happened.”
     Bates said he thought he was firing his Taser at Harris – but it was his gun.
     Bates killed 44-year-old Eric Courtney Harris, on April 2.
     In a body camera video released by the Tulsa County Sheriff, Harris is shown running away from deputies as they pull up to his vehicle. He is chased down and held to the ground and a single gunshot is heard.
     Bates apologizes as Harris screams that he has been shot.
     As Bates lies on the ground screaming that he is losing his breath, an officer says, “Fuck your breath.”
     The Sheriff’s Department said it was arresting Harris in an undercover investigation of illegal gun sales.
     Bates was charged Monday with second-degree manslaughter involving culpable negligence. He is free on $25,000 bond .
     If convicted, he faces up to four years in state prison.
     Bates said Harris’ death was “the second worst thing that has ever happened to me,” besides a cancer diagnoses that he survived. He later said it is the “number one on my list of things in my life that I regret.”
     When asked to show where he kept his gun and Taser on his body, Bates stood up and indicated the Taser was on his left side under a protective vest, and his gun was on his right hip. Bates said he had read about similar mistakes in news stories.
     “I thought to myself after reading several cases, ‘I don’t understand how this can happen,'” Bates said. “You must believe me, it can happen to anyone.”
     Bates said that after he heard the gunshot, he thought “Oh my God, what has happened?”
     Each weapon he carried has a laser to indicate the target.
     “I saw the light and I squeezed the trigger, and then realized I dropped the gun,” he said. “This was not an intentional thing. I had no desire to ever take anyone’s life.”
     The Tulsa World newspaper reported that Bates’ supervisors were transferred after they refused to sign papers that he had received state-required training.
     The unidentified deputies were ordered to falsify Bates’ training records to give him credit for field training he never took, and for firearms certifications he should not have received, multiple anonymous sources told the newspaper.
     Flanked by his family and attorney Clark Brewster in Tulsa, Bates said the reports were incorrect. He said he was qualified to be working the streets as a reserve officer.
     “That is absolutely the truth,” Bates said. “I have it in writing.”
     Clark questioned the credibility of the newspaper’s sources, saying the report centered on documents from a sheriff’s official who was fired seven years ago and his since been charged with first-degree murder.

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