Robert Bates Pleads Not Guilty, Heads To Bahamas

The volunteer Oklahoma deputy charged in the shooting death of an unarmed black man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to second-degree manslaughter.

A Tulsa judge ordered Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, 73, to return to court July 2 — but approved his request to first vacation in the Bahamas.

Bates has said he meant to draw his stun gun but accidentally drew and fired his .357-magnum revolver in a tragedy caught on video. Immediately after firing his weapon, Bates is heard on the video saying “I shot him. I’m sorry.”

Eric Harris, 44, died a short time later. Bates is free on $25,000 bail.

Harris had run from deputies conducting a sting operation April 2 when he was wrestled to the ground. Bates, an insurance executive by profession, had been at the scene serving as a backup for an undercover gun deal.

The plea came one day after Sheriff Stanley Glanz said the FBI had reviewed the shooting and determined that the sheriff’s department did nothing wrong. Glanz said the FBI determined that Harris’ civil rights were not violated.

Also Monday, lawyers for the Harris family said Bates was not certified on the gun he fired, and the personal weapon was not on the Tulsa sheriff’s list of approved firearms.

Attorney Dan Smolen said the records, supplied by the sheriff’s office, document only 24 hours of firearms training, none on a .357 magnum. The training covered an AR-15 rifle, a SIG Sauer pistol and a Glock .45-caliber pistol.

To become an advanced reserve deputy, Oklahoma requires 276 hours of state law enforcement courses and 480 of supervised field training.

Among the new batch of records is a handwritten March 2009 note on Bates’ corporate stationery declaring he completed 507 hours of training. Bates has said he became an advanced deputy in 2007.

The police department and a lawyer for Bates have released copies of various records. The sheriff’s office has refused media requests to release all of Bates’ records.

Glanz said if any are missing it’s because Oklahoma law allows their destruction after seven years. He also said there is no evidence that any training records for Bates were falsified, a contention raised by lawyers for the Harris family.

“Mr. Bates has been to the range several times and is qualified, that’s documented,” Glanz said.

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