Clarification: A Tuesday Tulsa World story has been clarified to more clearly reflect the circumstances of the shooting of Eric Courtney Harris. He was shot after a foot pursuit by Tulsa County deputies. Harris was taken to the ground by a deputy before being shot by a reserve deputy.
Update: The Tulsa County reserve deputy who was charged in the fatal shooting of a man during an undercover gun sting surrendered to authorities Tuesday morning.
Robert Charles "Bob" Bates, 73, was booked into Tulsa Jail on a felony second-degree manslaughter complaint in the death of Eric Courtney Harris. His bond was set at $25,000, and he posted bail 13 minutes after being booked in.
The charge was filed Monday in Tulsa County District Court by Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, who called the shooting “culpable negligence” on the part of Bates.
Harris died April 2 after an undercover gun buy in the parking lot of the Dollar General store at 1906 N. Harvard Ave. turned into a foot pursuit as Harris ran from authorities. Deputies determined after the shooting that Harris was not armed.
Bates, who was chasing Harris, allegedly confused his gun — a Smith & Wesson revolver — for a Taser and fatally shot Harris, according to the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.
Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz on Monday called the fatal shooting an “error."
Below is the Tulsa World story that appeared in the Tuesday morning print edition and online
A Tulsa County reserve deputy who fatally shot a man after a foot pursuit was charged Monday with second-degree manslaughter.
Hours after the Tulsa County district attorney filed the charge, the dead man’s family held a press conference, saying the Sheriff’s Office mishandled its response to the shooting and demanding a public apology.
Also Monday, Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz called the fatal shooting an “error” and said he had no plans to change the deputy reserve program.
However, “everything is under review,” Glanz said.
Eric Courtney Harris died April 2 after an undercover gun buy in the parking lot of the Dollar General store at 1906 N. Harvard Ave. turned into a foot pursuit as Harris ran from authorities.
Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Robert Charles “Bob” Bates, 73, confused his gun for a Taser and fatally shot Harris when he pulled the trigger, according to the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office’s preliminary investigation.
Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler filed the felony count of second-degree manslaughter, calling the shooting “culpable negligence” on the part of Bates, according to the charge.
“Mr. Bates is presumed innocent, and the presumption remains with him until a judge or jury determines otherwise,” Kunzweiler said in a statement.
Andre Harris, Eric Harris’ brother, spoke for the family in the press conference Monday afternoon, recounting what he saw in a Sheriff’s Office video of the undercover drug buy and subsequent shooting.
“It’s awful hard … to understand how he felt lying there,” Andre Harris said. “There’s no aid. You see the blood running down his side. … I would run out there and help.”
Harris defended his brother, saying Eric Harris was not a violent person and at no time acted violently toward deputies.
Harris took the press conference opportunity to clarify things that he said have been misconstrued on social media.
First, Harris said, the incident wholly involved the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and not the Tulsa Police Department, two separate law enforcement entities.
Secondly, he said, the shooting of his brother, who was black, by a white law enforcement officer was not about race.
“I don’t think this has anything to do with race,” Harris said.
“This is simply evil. We’re going to expose it. We’re going to pull the mask off the evil. We’re going to shine a light on the darkness. We’re going to change, here, in our community.”
Tulsa attorneys Daniel Smolen and Donald Smolen, who are representing the Harris family, said a video refutes statements made by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office following the shooting.
The attorneys showed a video with no audio that they said shows Andre Harris speaking with deputies about his brother’s death and asking questions about it, discounting statements made later by Sheriff’s Office officials saying they had received no requests for information from the Harris family.
Maj. Shannon Clark said the Sheriff’s Office won’t respond to the video until the attorneys release a version with audio.
“When the attorney releases the audio on that recording, and we know what was said, we will respond to it,” Clark said. “We believe there were things said that were not favorable to their client. … Once Smolen releases the audio, we’ll be able to respond. For the remainder of the frivolous allegations, we’re not going to dignify that with a response.”
As for the charges against Bates, Clark said the case is out of the sheriff’s hands.
“The burden to prove the case now lies in the hands of the district attorney,” he said.
Attorneys for the Harris family also pointed to early misinformation from the Sheriff’s Office when it compared a Taser to a sheriff’s-issue semiautomatic handgun to show similarities.
According to the charge filed in Tulsa County District Court, Bates mistook a Smith & Wesson revolver for his Taser.
Daniel Smolen said the case involves corruption at the highest level of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, pointing toward Glanz’s acknowledged relationship with Bates.
But Smolen also indicated that the corruption is limited and said he doesn’t intend to paint law enforcement broadly as corrupt.
Along those lines, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma released a statement calling for an end to “Buy a Badge” programs — or volunteer units — in law enforcement.
Overall, the Harris family and their attorneys are focusing on making all the facts public, saying it’s about shining a light on how the Sheriff’s Office reacted to a mistake, they said.
“America is going to see what happens after a bad shooting takes place, when a law enforcement agency refuses to step up to the plate,” Daniel Smolen said.
“And they are going to see it in front of the entire world.”
Here are previous updates and versions of this story:
UPDATE: A reserve deputy who fatally shot a man during an undercover gun sting was charged with second-degree manslaughter Monday afternoon, according to a press release from the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office.
“Mr. Bates is charged with Second-Degree Manslaughter involving culpable negligence. Oklahoma law defines culpable negligence as ‘the omission to do something which a reasonably careful person would do, or the lack of the usual ordinary care and caution in the performance of an act usually and ordinarily exercised by a person under similar circumstances and conditions,’” District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said in the statement.
“The defendant is presumed to be innocent under the law, but we will be prepared to present evidence at future court hearings."
Earlier Monday, Sheriff Stanley Glanz described Reserve Deputy Robert Charles "Bob" Bates as a longtime friend who made "an error" last week when he fatally shot an unarmed man trying to flee deputies during an undercover operation to retrieve stolen guns.
Glanz also said he had no plans to change the deputy reserve program but that it will be looked as part of the Sheriff's Department routine review of operations.
According to the Sheriff's Office, Bates had intended to use a Taser on Eric Courtney Harris as Harris was being subdued during an undercover gun buy but instead pulled his gun and fired one shot.
"He made an error," Glanz said. "How many errors are made in an operating room every week?"
An investigator retained by the Sheriff's Office found that Bates violated no policies. The case is now in the hands of the District Attorney's Office.
Asked if he thought the shooting was justified, Glanz said, "That is a hard word for me to answer."
He added: "It was unintentional. You know, justified means you had reason to do something. He had reason to get the gun out when the guy was fleeing."
The incident occurred near the parking lot of a Dollar General store at 1906 N. Harvard Ave. Harris, a convicted felon, later died at a local hospital.
Glanz said the reserve program will be examined at some point.
"We go over (different) policies and procedures from the office once a month," Glanz said. "So in one year we have looked at all of the policies and procedures."
Sheriff's Office procedures were reviewed last week by the national Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement. The inspection was scheduled before the shooting occurred and was not done in response to it, Glanz said.
"They looked at all of our policies and found them to be in order," Glanz said. "And they looked specifically at the reserve program and found it to be in order."
Harris’ death is the latest in a series of killings nationwide of unarmed black men at the hands of law enforcement officers.
The video of Harris’ shooting was played on several national television broadcasts over the weekend as the latest example of such incidents.
But Glanz cautioned against lumping all of the deaths together.
“They’re really not related,” Glanz said, “and each one needs to be looked at on their own merit and what really occurred.”
Glanz's said he has been friends with Bates for about 50 years and that Bates has been his insurance agent.
He dismissed the notion that their friendship had led to Bates' receiving special treatment, noting that many people have given their time and purchased equipment, including cars, for the Sheriff's Office.
"We have a lot of people giving themselves to the community," he said.
Glanz responded to critics who have said Bates, 73, was too old to be a reserve deputy. The Sheriff's Office once had an 81-year-old deputy, Glanz said.
"I am 72 years old, and I think I am still active," the sheriff said.
This morning's 10-minute interview ended with Glanz's pulling his phone out to show a picture of him and Bates fishing on a local lake.
Bates can be seen wearing a big smile as he holds up a huge fish.
"Bob and I both love to fish," Glanz said. "Is it wrong to have a friend?"