A recently released secret recording revealed a wealthy Oklahoma businessman now charged in the death of an unarmed black man served as a reserve deputy for the thrill and used his position to help powerful friends.
Robert Bates, a volunteer Tulsa County deputy charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Eric Harris, made the remarks in 2012 to a business associate who was secretly recording the conversation.
The Associated Press obtained the recordings, which were part of a federal case that was later dismissed.
“It’s kind of a thing that I need to go back to, to scare the sh*t out of me, to make me feel good about life,” Bates says on the recording. “I love that. That was just great.”
Bates, who built an insurance company that he later sold for $6 million, told the company’s new president – who secretly recorded the remarks — that he never did like taking orders from others.
“I don’t do well with that,” Bates said. “I don’t do well with direction. I never have, since the first grade. My first-grade teacher and I had a problem with it — I’ve had problems throughout my life with it.”
He also suggested on the recording that he performed favors for his attorney while working at the sheriff’s office in exchange for his legal fees.
“I haven’t paid him yet,” Bates said, chuckling. “Let’s say — I mean, he knows I’ve done some sh*t for him at the sheriff’s office for some of his clients.”
The attorney, Clark Brewster, confirmed the recording was authentic but disputed its relevance to the Harris shooting.
“This was two guys at a restaurant talking frankly about their experiences, and, unbeknownst to Mr. Bates, Mr. (Bryan) Berman apparently was surreptitiously taping him,” Brewster said. “It has nothing to do with the shooting, I can tell you that.”
He also denied knowledge of the favors that Bates referenced, saying that his client may have been dropping names in hopes of having the plaintiffs to drop the case.
The 73-year-old Bates is staying at the luxury home he owns in Vero Beach, Florida, and is planning a vacation to the Bahamas before his next court appearance in July, his attorneys said.
An investigation report shows that other deputies were concerned that Bates, who donated patrol cars and other equipment to the sheriff’s office, was not properly trained for the field operations he took part in.
Two deputies said his actions in the field “were a little scary,” the report showed.
However, superiors reminded deputies of Bates’ generosity when they raised concerns, according to the report.
Undersheriff Tim Albin resigned on Monday after the report showed he knew Bates, a fishing buddy of Sheriff Stanley Glanz, was inadequately trained but urged deputies to ignore their concerns.