OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - A white sheriff’s reserve deputy charged in the fatal shooting in Oklahoma of a black suspect in a police sting operation has been released on bond after turning himself in to authorities, one of his lawyers said on Tuesday.
The volunteer deputy, Robert Bates, thought he was using a Taser instead of his gun, the Tulsa Sheriff’s office has said of the incident seen in a video released over the weekend.
Oklahoma prosecutors on Monday charged Bates, 73, with second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Eric Harris, 44, on April 2.
The death of Harris was the latest in a series of fatal shootings of black men that have fueled a national debate about police use of lethal force, especially against minorities.
Bates turned himself in after an arrest warrant was filed, and plans to plead not guilty at his preliminary hearing, his lawyer Corbin Brewster said.
Brewster said his client has been misrepresented in news articles that have questioned the use of reserve officers who work part-time as police and hold other jobs as well.
“This is a guy who supports his community,” Brewster said. “He’ll want his day in court and I have no doubt he’ll be acquitted.”
Bates works as an insurance executive and also worked on the Tulsa Sheriff’s Violent Crimes Task Force. The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department uses volunteer reserve deputies who have full powers and authorities.
Legal experts said second-degree manslaughter in Oklahoma can bring between two and four years in prison.
In the video, a man Oklahoma authorities identified as Bates is heard saying: “Oh, I shot him. I’m sorry.”
Police were pursuing Harris on suspicion of trying to sell a gun illegally to an undercover officer in a police sting. He fled the scene and was being chased. Harris was a felon who had a record of violent crimes including assault and battery on a police officer, armed robbery and escape from a penal institution.
CNN reported that Bates’ first court appearance would be April 21, and that his bond was $25,000.
Additional reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Will Dunham