Robert Bates, the 73-year-old Tulsa reserve deputy who fatally shot Eric Harris on Apr. 2, is now being charged with second-degree manslaughter after footage of the incident was released. The video was met with outrage online, as it captured Harris’ final moments, from Bates’ alleged accidental firing of his weapon, to another officer yelling “Fuck your breath” as he succumbed to the wound.
According to CNN, Bates’ lawyer, Scott Wood, is defending his client in what he calls an “excusable homicide.”
“We believe the video itself proves that it was an accident of misfortune that occurred while Deputy Bates was fulfilling his duties as a reserve deputy,” he said. “He is not guilty of second-degree manslaughter.”
Bates, an insurance company CEO, has volunteered as a reserve deputy in for Tulsa County since 2008 after completing 300 hours of training and 1,100 hours of community policing experience. Questions have been raised about whether or not he was fit to serve in the operation involving Harris. Daniel Smolen, an attorney for the Harris family, has also put Bates under scrutiny for monetary contributions to the sheriff’s office.
“It’s absolutely mind boggling that you have a wealthy businessman who’s been essentially deputized to go play like he’s some outlaw, like he’s just cleaning up the streets,” he said.
Harris’ brother, Andre Harris, remarked that the case would be an attempt to expose the Tulsa County’s Sheriff’s Office’s corrupt operations.
“They’ve gotten real comfortable with how they do things, which when you’re the law, I guess you feel like you can do things and get away with it and not get exposed,” he said. “Well, we’ve come to expose it. We’ve come to pull a mask off the evil. We’ve come to shine a light on the darkness.”
If convicted, Bates could spend up to four years in prison and be charged a fine upwards of $1,000.