It took less than three hours Wednesday for an Oklahoma jury to find a volunteer sheriff’s deputy guilty of manslaughter for shooting a man who was restrained and laying facedown beneath a pile of deputies.
Robert Bates, a wealthy 74-year-old insurance agent who would donate cash, trips and toys to the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office in exchange for dressing up as a deputy and joining them on drug raids, claimed he had shot the suspect by accident.
Eric Harris, who had just sold an undercover deputy a gun inside a car, had jumped out of the car when realizing he was about to be arrested.
But he was quickly chased down and was in the process of being handcuffed when Bates pulled out his gun and fired.
“He shot me! He shot me, man. Oh, my god. I’m losing my breath,” Harris says.
“Fuck your breath,” Tulsa County sheriff’s deputy Joseph Byars responds. “Shut the fuck up!”
“I shot him. I’m sorry,” Bates can be heard saying.
During the trial, Bates’ attorney said: “It was an error, and no one should end up in jail over a mistake”.
In closing arguments, prosecutors said Bates made the decision to leave the vehicle and join officers in arresting Harris. Questions regarding Bates’ weapons proficiency and other law enforcement certifications still remain.
Bates provided lavish gifts to the sheriffs department, which seems to have played a role in his ability to be part of an active sting at his advanced age.
As Harris fled, Bates and officers encircled and tackled him to the ground. Bates jumped out of the vehicle and approached as officers struggled with him on the ground.
Bates had his taser attached to his chest and his service weapon on his hip. Bates yelled “taser taser” as he was trained to do.
However, Bates grabbed for the holstered weapon on his side. Officers on the ground heard his “taser” call and moved back, just as Bates fired his weapon striking Harris in the chest.
After Bates killed Harris, concern for “pay to play” sent ripples departments to ensure officers were not doing the same thing.
Shortly after the shooting, Bill Lewinski of Force Science Institute, made the assertion that it was a possible “slip and capture”.
As we wrote about here, Lewinski who is the go to person for police departments throughout the nation call to their defense when an officer uses is accused of excessive force. Lewinski, previously served as Minnesota State University – Mankato.
In all of the trials in which Lewinski has testified, he has always testified in the defense of officers, even when it the incident is more than questionable. However imaginary term slip and capture”, which Lewinski claimed to have been possible, is anything but science.
The jury recommended a sentence of four years, but a judge will not sentence him until May 31, according to CNN.