Deputy who killed man after mistaking gun for Taser is an insurance exec who pays to play cop
Reserve sheriff's deputy Robert Bates and shooting victim Eric Harris (Tulsa Police Department)

The reserve Tulsa County Sheriff's deputy who fatally shot and killed a man last week when he thought he had pulled his Taser, is part of a group of wealthy donors who make large contributions to the department for the privilege of playing police officer.

According to Tulsa World, Robert Bates, 73, who made the fatal mistake that cost a man his life, is a local insurance company executive who has donated multiple vehicles, weapons, and stun guns to the Sheriff’s Office since becoming a reserve deputy in 2008.

Bates is responsible for the death of Eric Harris, when he attempted to assist in the arrest of Harris as he struggled on the ground with Tulsa sheriff's deputies. Bates shot Harris with his service weapon believing he had pulled his Taser.

In video released Friday, Bates can be heard apologizing, saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," as police handcuffed Harris before he was taken to a local hospital where he died from his gunshot wound.

According to Maj. Shannon Clark, Bates is a highly regarded member of the Reserve Deputy Program who was assisting the Sheriff’s Office’s Violent Crimes Task Force when Harris was shot.

Clark stated that Bates is one of many wealthy donors among the agency’s 130 reserve deputies, saying, “There are lots of wealthy people in the reserve program. Many of them make donations of items. That’s not unusual at all.”

On Monday, the Sheriff’s Office deferred questions to the county commissioners’ office when asked for a list of items Bates had donated, including his own service weapon and Taser.

Bates, who served as a Tulsa police officer for one year in 1964,  is not compensated for his time assisting the sheriff's deputies, and  is classified as an “advanced reserve,” meaning he “can do anything a full-time deputy can do,” explained Clark.

“Although he had training and experience for the arrest team, he’s not assigned to the arrest team,” Clark said of Bates’ role assisting the task force. “He came to render aid during the altercation, but he’s in a support role during the operation. That means keeping notes, doing counter-surveillance, things like that.”

Following  320 hours of training with CLEET (the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training) as well as have completed 480 hours of the TCSO Field Training Officer Program, an "advanced" reserve can “perform normal field duties by themselves and without the direct supervision of a certified deputy” according to the training program

The Tulsa Police Depart also utilizes reserves, however the approximately 55 reserve officers are typically limited to working traffic control or parking lot patrols during “Safe Shopper” operations during the holiday shopping seasons.

The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office has yet to decide whether they will press charges against Bates.