Tulsa Deputy Maintains Killing Of Unarmed Black Man Was a Mistake

Robert Bates, in an April 14, 2015, photo provided by the Tulsa County, Okla., Sheriff's Office. (Photo: AP)
Robert Bates, in an April 14, 2015, photo provided by the Tulsa County, Okla., Sheriff’s Office.
(Photo: AP)

The 73-year-old Tulsa volunteer deputy who killed an unarmed man when he mistook his gun for his taser told the Today show that he’s stunned that he took someone’s life.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Robert Bates told the NBC morning show Friday that he doesn’t know how he made such a mistake. He said each weapon he carries has a laser light that indicates the intended 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.”

He apologized to the family of Eric Harris, 44, the man he shot during an April 2 undercover operation.

Bates has been charged with second-degree manslaughter for shooting Harris. He is free on $25,000 bail.

Bates, surrounded by family and supporters during the interview with Matt Lauer, said he is typically behind the scenes during sting operations.

“I’ve been involved in several hundreds of these (cases). I do clean up when they’re done. I take notes. I take photographs. And that’s my job,” he said.

Bates said he was parked several blocks away from where the sting was taking place, but when Harris, the suspect, bolted from officers at the scene, he headed toward Bates. Video of the encounter shows Harris in a car trying to sell a gun to an undercover deputy, then running when deputies try to arrest him. The video shows a physical struggle then a shot is heard before Bates says, “I shot him. I’m sorry.”

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SOURCE: USA Today – Marisol Bello

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