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Oklahoma deputy 'inadvertently' shot, killed suspect

By Amy R. Connolly

TULSA, Okla., April 4 (UPI) -- A 73-year-old undercover Tulsa County reserve deputy "inadvertently" shot and killed a suspect instead of using a non-lethal stun gun during a bust, investigator said.

Robert Charles Bates, a Tulsa insurance executive who was working undercover with the county's Violent Crimes Task Force, told investigators he thought he was grabbing his non-lethal Taser to take down Eric Courtney Harris. Instead, Bates used his pistol. Harris was taken to the hospital, where he later died. Bates was placed on administrative leave.

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Investigators said Bates, part of a team investigating the distribution of methamphetamines, was trying to help another deputy who was struggling with Harris during an arrest attempt.

"During the rapidly evolving altercation, the reserve deputy had what he believed was his Taser from his tactical carrier and attempted to render aid in subduing the suspect," the sheriff's office said. "Initial reports have determined that the reserve deputy was attempting to use less lethal force, believing he was utilizing a Taser, when he inadvertently discharged his service weapon, firing one round which struck Harris."

The sheriff's office said Bates was an "advanced" reserve deputy, which means he has a minimum of 320 hours of training, plus annual supplemental training. Reserve deputies have the same power of arrest as paid deputies.

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Investigators said Bates was formerly a Tulsa Police officer. The circumstances behind his departure were not immediately available.

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