Tulsa Reserve Deputy Pleads Not Guilty in Fatal Shooting, Allowed to Go On Vacation

Tulsa County, Okla., Sheriff's Office photo of Robert Bates. (PHOTO CREDIT: Associated Press)
Tulsa County, Okla., Sheriff’s Office photo of Robert Bates. (PHOTO CREDIT: Associated Press)

The Tulsa County sheriff’s reserve deputy who fatally shot a man this month when he mistook his personal handgun for a Taser was allowed by a judge on Tuesday to go on vacation before his next court appearance.

Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, 73, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to second-degree manslaughter in the death of Eric Harris, whom he shot during an undercover gun sting.

The judge presiding over Bates’ court appearance set his next hearing for July 2 and approved Bates’ request to vacation first in the Bahamas. Bates is currently out on $25,000 bond and – if convicted – could face four years in prison.

The decision to allow Bates to travel drew strong criticism from Harris’ family.

“Whether intended or not, Mr. Bates’ vacationing in the Bahamas at this time sends a message of apathy with respect to the shooting and Eric’s life,” the Harris family said in a statement released by their attorney Dan Smolen. “At a time when we are still mourning the death of a loved one that he shot down in the street, Mr. Bates will be relaxing and enjoying his wealth and privilege.”

Bates did not issue a statement after his brief court hearing Tuesday, and his attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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SOURCE: LA Times, Kurtis Lee

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