Wannabe Tulsa, Okla., Deputy Who Killed Unarmed Black Man: ‘I’ve Been Condemned’

Angela Bronner Helm
Robert Bates; Eric Harris
CBS News screenshot

The volunteer Oklahoma sheriff’s deputy who killed an unarmed black man last year said he’d “pretty much been condemned,” and says he doesn’t expect to survive his four-year jail sentence.

Robert Bates, 74, told NBC News from jail that shooting Eric Harris during an April 2, 2015, sting operation in Tulsa, Okla., was a “horrible mistake.”


Bates spoke to NBC News from the Tulsa County Jail on June 6, where he’d been held since a judge handed down the maximum penalty recommended by jurors who convicted him of second-degree manslaughter. He has since been moved to a state prison.

Bates was a retired insurance executive who was a friend of Tulsa Sheriff Stanley Glanz. According to NBC, Bates said that as an elderly reserve deputy, he’d specifically asked that he not be put in a position in which there might be gunfire. When he was confronted by the suspect, Harris, Bates said that he intended to use a Taser to stun Harris as he grappled with officers. Instead, Bates pulled the trigger of his gun.

Bates reportedly used his close ties with the department to forgo the required 480 hours of field officer training. During trial, it was revealed that he was never qualified to carry a weapon, including the revolver used in the deadly shooting.

“I just made a mistake,” Bates said. “It was an accident. I didn’t do it on purpose. That’s the one thing that has pretty much ruined my life.”


Bates said that he suffers from an enlarged heart and that at his age, the four-year prison term was likely a death sentence.

“I’m probably done,” he said. “I mean, I don’t want to die in prison, but I suppose it’s a good possibility.”


Harris’ death led to an investigation that found an internal memo questioning Bates’ qualifications as a volunteer deputy. The probe also found that Bates had donated thousands of dollars in cash, vehicles and equipment to the sheriff’s office.

“I regret the whole thing. I regret that I ever decided to try to give something back to the community,” Bates said.


Read more at NBC News.

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