Two deputies involved in the undercover sting operation that led to the fatal shooting of Eric Harris, a 44-year-old unarmed black man, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, earlier this month have been reassigned for safety reasons, according to Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz.
The new assignments were the result of threats against the deputies and their families, Glanz said Monday during his first big address to the public since the fatal shooting 18 days ago on April 2.
Glanz apologized to the Harris family before revealing the Oklahoma FBI had completed its investigation and “found no wrongdoing” of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office. The office hasn’t issued any suspensions; authorities will take action when the court cases involving Bates are complete, Glanz said.
“We are sorry Eric was taken from you,” Glanz said. “My sympathy goes out to that family.”
Robert Bates, a 73-year-old insurance broker who had volunteered for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office as a reserve deputy since 2008, allegedly shot Harris during an undercover operation on April 2. The Tulsa County District Attorney has 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.
Harris 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.
Glanz on Monday defended Bates’ presence at the scene on April 2, and said his office is still trying to find all of the training records for Bates.
“Yes, Mr. Bates should have been out there that day, he wasn’t involved in the undercover. He was there as backup,” he said. Glanz added that he expects the office to review the national standards for the deputy reserves, including looking into the ages they are allowed to serve.
Bates, who says he accidentally fired his gun at Harris instead of his Taser, surrendered for booking to authorities in Tulsa last Tuesday. Over the weekend, his lawyer released training records from 2009 to 2014 indicating that Bates successfully qualified to use a handgun 10 times and took at least one Taser class.
Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office supervisors were reportedly directed to falsify the training records for Bates. At least three of his supervisors were transferred to other assignments after they refused to sign off on required training for the reserve deputy.
Bates apologized to the Harris family last week. Harris’ teenage son, Aiden Fraley, said Bates was too old to be on the streets. But his wife, Cathy Fraley, said she forgives the deputy.