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Tulsa deputy surrenders to face manslaughter charge in 'accidental' fatal shooting

By
Amy R. Connolly and Danielle Haynes

TULSA, Okla., April 13 (UPI) -- A Tulsa deputy who "accidentally" used his handgun instead of a non-lethal stun gun to subdue a suspect surrendered to authorities Tuesday to face a manslaughter charge.

Reserve deputy Robert Bates, 73, will be booked into a Tulsa jail on a felony second-degree manslaughter charge. Bates was involved in a sting operation with the sheriff's office earlier this month when he shot Eric Courtney Harris with a gun. He said he thought he was reaching for his Taser.

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Harris, a convicted felon, was first a suspect in a methamphetamine investigation, but made claims during that investigation about being able to sell illegal weapons.

The incident was caught on video and Bates can be heard saying he intended to fire his Taser at Harris, but instead he pulled out his gun and shot him.

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"Oh! I shot him! I'm sorry!" Bates can be heard saying in the video. Another voice screams "He shot him! He shot him!"

Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen A. Kunzweiler announced Monday Bates, 73, faces a second-degree manslaughter charge.

Tulsa Sgt. Jim Clark, an independent consultant hired to do a private evaluation, believes the incident is consistent with excusable homicide, citing a medical theory called "slips and capture."

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The theory states that during high-stress situations, a person does something different from or opposite of what the brain believes them to be doing.

"Slips and capture... happens in medical community, aviation industry and law enforcement," Clark said. "You can train someone as much as you can, but in times of crisis, sometimes training is not going to take you through the scenario."

Funeral services for Harris will be held Wednesday.

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Andrew V. Pestano contributed to this report.

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