As early as 2008, colleagues questioned the behavior of Robert Bates, the volunteer Oklahoma deputy reserve who shot an unarmed black man in Tulsa earlier this month, according to documents obtained by NBC News.
A memo dated Dec. 17, 2008 cited a sergeant telling a captain that Bates was using his personal vehicle to make unauthorized traffic stops, which violates the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office policy, NBC reported on Friday.
Bates, a 73-year-old insurance broker, had volunteered for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office as a reserve deputy since 2008. He is being accused of fatally shooting 44-year-old Eric Harris during an undercover operation on April 2 in Tulsa. Bates has said he accidentally fired his gun at Harris instead of his Taser. The district attorney last week charged Bates with second-degree manslaughter.
He pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter charges on Tuesday. If convicted, Bates could face a maximum of four years in jail and a fine of no more than $1,000.
A 2009 internal review concluded that Bates had incomplete field training, violated policy, and received special treatment, NBC reported. A spokesman for the sheriff's office, Maj. Shannon Clark, told NBC that a review was conducted in 2009, but that no action was ever taken.
Bates is a longtime friend, political supporter, and campaign contributor to Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz. Earlier this week, Glanz defended Bates’ presence at the scene on April 2.
Harris was part of a sting operation set up 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.
Bates has said he accidentally fired his gun at Harris instead of his Taser. He 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.