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Tulsa pay-to-play reserve deputy Robert Bates found guilty of manslaughter

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The Oklahoma volunteer reserve deputy who fatally shot an unarmed suspect being subdued by regular deputies last year was found guilty of manslaughter on Wednesday by a jury that recommended he serve the maximum of four years in prison.

Prosecutors told jurors that Robert Bates, 74, an insurance executive who volunteered as a reserve sheriff’s deputy, deserved to be sent to prison for thrusting himself into the situation when there were several qualified deputies on the scene who could subdue the man.

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It took the jury about three hours to reach a verdict.

Lawyers for Bates contended that he mistakenly thought he had a Taser in hand when he shot Eric Harris, 44, not realizing he had a pistol.

Bates is white and Harris was African-American. The shooting, captured on video, was one in a series that raised questions of racial bias in U.S. policing.

Harris was fleeing from deputies last April in Tulsa during a sting targeting illegal gun sales.

“You can expect human error,” defense lawyer Clark Brewster told the all-white jury. “It is not a mistake one goes to prison over.”

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Prosecutor Kevin Gray told jurors in closing arguments that Bates made the decision to leave his car, join the deputies and draw a weapon on Harris, who was on the ground.

“People make mistakes all the time, but to equate the shooting of Eric Harris with that is absurd,” he said.

In a video seen previously in the media and played in court at the start of the trial a week ago, a Tulsa County deputy subdues Harris and a voice identified as Bates’ says, “Taser, Taser.”

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A gunshot is then heard. A man Oklahoma authorities identified as Bates is heard saying “Oh, I shot him. I’m sorry.”

Harris is heard screaming, “He shot me. Oh my God.”

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A deputy replies, telling Harris to “shut up,” and shouts a profanity at him.

Harris, who said in the video he was having trouble breathing, later died at a Tulsa hospital.

The incident prompted the suspension of the reserve deputy program, a grand jury investigation of the sheriff’s department and the Nov. 1 resignation of Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz.

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(Reporting by Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton, writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by David Gregorio, Toni Reinhold)


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