A former volunteer deputy sheriff in Tulsa, Oklahoma was sentenced to four years in prison Tuesday for shooting an unarmed suspect after he had been taken into custody. Robert Bates, now 74 years old, said he mistakenly shot and killed Eric Harris in April 2015 during an illegal gun sales sting when he mistakenly drew and fired his handgun, which he thought was his stun gun.
Bates, who is white, was sitting in a parked car several blocks away from the sting operation when Harris, who is black, fled on foot nearby where Bates was parked. Bates got out to assist the officers and shot Harris in the back. The shooting was captured on video and Bates can be heard saying “Oh! I shot him! I'm sorry!" on the recording. Jurors convicted Bates last month and recommended the maximum penalty of four years for the second-degree manslaughter conviction. Here’s more from the Associated Press:
The shooting [-] sparked several investigations. Among other things, the investigations revealed an internal memo questioning Bates' qualifications as a volunteer deputy and showed that Bates, a close friend of the sheriff's, had donated thousands of dollars in cash, vehicles and equipment to the sheriff's office… An outside consultant hired to review the sheriff's office following the shooting determined that the agency suffered from a "system-wide failure of leadership and supervision" and had been in a "perceptible decline" for more than a decade. The reserve deputy program was later suspended. Weeks after Harris was killed, an internal sheriff's office memo from 2009 was released by an attorney for Harris' family that alleged superiors knew Bates didn't have enough training but pressured others to look the other way because of his relationship with the sheriff and the agency.
The judge in the case said he took into account Bates’ age and health and that the punishment was a "legitimate and moral consequence" of the shooting.