Deputy, 73, Who Killed Man After Confusing Gun for Taser is a Wealthy Donor Who Pays to Play Cop
The reserve Tulsa County Sheriff’s deputy who killed a man last week after confusing his gun for his Taser is actually a wealthy donor who gives big donations to the police department in exchange for playing a cop.
Tulsa World reports that 73-year-old Robert Bates, who says he mistook his gun for his Taser when he fatally shot Eric Harris last week, is an insurance executive who has donated several vehicles, weapons, and Tasers to the Sheriff’s Office since 2008.
Bates attempted to assist actual deputies who were trying to arrest Harris but shot the man with his service weapon after thinking he had pulled his Taser.
In a video released last week, Bates is heard saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” as Harris is handcuffed before being taken to the hospital where he passed away from his wound.
“There are lots of wealthy people in the reserve program,” Maj. Shannon Clark told Tulsa World. “Many of them make donations of items. That’s not unusual at all.”
Bates, who served as a police officer for one year in 1964, does not receive compensation for his position but is classified as an “advanced reserve” which qualifies him to “do anything a full-time deputy can do.”
“Although he had training and experience for the arrest team, he’s not assigned to the arrest team,” Clark said. “He came to render aid during the altercation, but he’s in a support role during the operation. That means keeping notes, doing counter-surveillance, things like that.”
According to the training program, advanced reserves must perform 320 hours of training with the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training and 480 hours of the TCSO Field Training Officer Program in order to “perform normal duties by themselves and without the direct supervision of a certified deputy.”
The Tulsa Police Department utilizes approximately 55 reserve officers.
The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office is considering whether they will press charges against Bates.