The Tulsa County deputy who shot and killed a man instead of using his Taser now faces a manslaughter charge.
Video shows Reserve Deputy Robert Bates announcing he is going to deploy his Taser after an undercover weapons sting on April 2, but then shooting Eric Courtney Harris in the back with a handgun.
In a written statement, Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen A. Kunzweiler said Bates is charged with second-degree manslaughter involving culpable negligence. It's a felony charge that could land the volunteer deputy in prison for up to four years if he's found guilty.
Scott Wood, an attorney who represents Bates, said the shooting was an "excusable homicide."
"We believe the video itself proves that it was an accident of misfortune that occurred while Deputy Bates was fulfilling his duties as a reserve deputy," Wood said. "He is not guilty of second-degree manslaughter."
Investigators' efforts to defend Bates and the other deputies involved in the arrest have sparked a mounting chorus of criticism online. Harris' family is demanding an independent investigation of what they call unjustified brutality.
They're also questioning why the 73-year-old Bates -- the CEO of an insurance company who volunteers as a certified reserve deputy -- was on the scene in such a sensitive and high-risk sting operation.
After the shooting, Bates told investigators that he was "in a state of shock and disbelief" after realizing he'd fired his gun. He also said he believed there was a "strong possibility" that Harris had a gun.
Wood said Monday that Bates is upset over the shooting.
"Obviously he is very upset about what happened. He feels badly," he said. "The incident completely took him by surprise. He has all the requisite training. He is TASER-certified, and if you watch the video you know he was quite shocked when his gun went off."
Authorities say Bates thought he pulled out his Taser but "inadvertently" fired his gun. They've painted Harris as a dangerous, possibly PCP-addled illegal gun dealer who had recently sold methamphetamine to undercover police and who fled police that day in such a way as to give the impression that he had a gun in his waistband.
Though Harris was later determined to be unarmed, Sgt. Jim Clark of the Tulsa Police Department, who has been brought in to review the case, excused the behavior of Bates and an officer who is heard cursing at Harris in the video.
Clark said Bates was the "victim" of something called "slip and capture," where in a high-stress situation, a person intends to do one thing and instead does something else.
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