Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office supervisors were reportedly directed to falsify the training records for a reserve deputy who was charged this week with second-degree manslaughter in the recent killing of Eric Harris, an unarmed black man, according to The Tulsa World. Robert Bates, 73, was given credit for field training he never enrolled in and firearms certifications he should not have received, according to the newspaper’s report, which was based on “multiple unnamed sources.”
Bates, an insurance broker who had volunteered for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office as a reserve deputy since 2008, shot Harris during an undercover operation on April 2. At least three of Bates’ supervisors were transferred to other assignments after they refused to sign off on required training for the reserve deputy, according to The Tulsa World report.
Maj. Clark, the public information officer for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, told msnbc Thursday, “The media outlet that is putting that information out is using unconfirmed sources and also relying on anonymity. We don’t respond to rumor.”
Additionally, Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz told a Tulsa radio station earlier this week that Bates had been certified to use weapons, including a revolver, but the sheriff’s office couldn’t find the paperwork to substantiate the claims, according to The Tulsa World.
Bates, who says he accidentally fired his gun at Harris instead of his Taser, surrendered for booking to authorities in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Tuesday. “Mr. Bates was fully (Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training), certified notwithstanding any additional training by (Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office). He received substantial training in-house, and at seminars and training sessions out-of-state. The suggestion that the training was fabricated is incredulous,” Bates’ attorney, Clark Brewster, told msnbc’s Ariana Pekary Wednesday.
Harris, 44, was part of a sting operation to catch him selling guns and drugs. Video of the incident shows Harris exiting a car and running from the police. A foot chase ensued, and an officer wearing a body camera caught up to Harris and tackled him to the ground. Footage from that video reveals the sounds of a Taser and gun, as well as a voice saying, “I shot him. I’m sorry.” Harris said, “I’m losing my breath,” to which a deputy responded: “F— your breath.” Harris died an hour later at a nearby hospital.
Harris’ family released a statement Monday calling the response “appalling.” The relatives added, “No human being deserves to be treated with such contempt.” They also have questioned the wisdom of having a 73-year-old insurance executive, who served briefly as a police officer in the 1960s, involved in an undercover sting operation. Bates also reportedly gave political donations to Sheriff Glanz, and was his campaign manager during his 2012 re-election campaign, according to the Tulsa World.
An internal investigation recommended that Bates not be charged. But the Tulsa County District Attorney on Monday charged Bates with second-degree manslaughter. If convicted, he could face a maximum of four years in jail and a fine of no more than $1,000.