By Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton
TULSA, Okla. (Reuters) – A former Oklahoma reserve deputy convicted in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man being subdued by regular deputies last year was sentenced on Tuesday to four years in prison for second-degree manslaughter.
Robert Bates, an insurance executive who volunteered as a reserve sheriff’s deputy in Tulsa County, was found guilty in April of the charge stemming from the 2015 death of Eric Harris. Bates, 74, will receive credit for time already served, District Judge William Musseman said. He has been held at the Tulsa County jail since his conviction.
Lawyers for Bates said he thought he had a Taser rather than a gun in his hand when he fired at Harris, 44. But prosecutors said Bates’ actions were tantamount to professional negligence.
The shooting, captured on video, was one in a series that raised questions of racial bias in U.S. policing. Bates is white and Harris, who was fleeing from deputies during a sting targeting illegal gun sales, was African-American.
Citing Bates’ health, defense attorneys said they plan to appeal the sentence. Bates has been diagnosed with a host of medical conditions, including sleep apnea, cardiovascular problems and low testosterone.
Among the witnesses called to testify on Tuesday was Harris’ 17-year-old son, Aiden, who said graduating from high school this month without his father there “crushed him.”
The younger Harris said he had forgiven Bates but said there had to be consequences for his actions.
Musseman denied a request from Bates’ attorneys for a 30-day extension to file a motion for a new trial. Oklahoma allows for such a request if good cause can be shown, but Musseman disagreed with the defense’s assertion that the lack of a completed trial transcript met that threshold.
(Reporting by Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton; Editing by Leslie Adler and Tom Brown)
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