Reserve Deputy in Fatal Tulsa Shooting Had ‘No Desire to (Take) Anyone’s Life’

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Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, left, was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Eric Courtney Harris, prosecutors announced on Monday, April 12, 2015. (Credit: Tulsa County Sheriff's Office)

A 73-year-old volunteer deputy who says he mistakenly killed a suspect during a sting operation this month told NBC’s “Today” show Friday that reports that his training records were forged are false.

Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Deputy Robert Bates said he did the required training, denying a Tulsa World report this week that some supervisors at the Sheriff’s Office were told to forge his training records.

“That is absolutely the truth. I have it in writing,” he said when NBC’s Matt Lauer asked him if he had the proper training and certifications.

Bates also said he apologizes to the family of Eric Harris, the man he shot.

“I rate this as No. 1 on my list of things in my life that I regret,” he said.

Bates is charged with second-degree manslaughter for shooting Harris on April 2 in Tulsa County, Oklahoma. He is free on $25,000 bail.

Police say that Harris ran from an undercover officer during a weapons sting operation and that Bates was there with other officers for backup. Bates told “Today” that he was in the “last car, as I always am,” but that Harris ran toward his location.

Police video of the incident shows that officers brought Harris to the ground. Bates is heard announcing that he’s going to deploy his stun gun. Instead, police say, Bates shot him.

“I shot him! I’m sorry!” Bates is heard saying.

His attorney has said Bates is not guilty of manslaughter, calling the death an “excusable homicide.”

In the “Today” interview, Bates said he was completely surprised to see that he had shot Harris. He said he realized what happened after he squeezed the trigger and saw the gun drop.

“I have no desire to (take) anyone’s life,” he said.

Bates was asked how he could have mistaken a gun for a Taser. Bates answered that “this has happened a number of times around the country.”

He said that when he read about other cases in the past, he wondered to himself how that could happen. Now he knows, he said.

“You must believe me: It can happen to anyone,” he told Lauer.

NAACP wants Justice Department to investigate

Oklahoma’s NAACP said Thursday it wanted the state Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate what it said was inaction by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.

The organization said sheriff’s officials had failed to charge other officers involved in Harris’ death.

The NAACP also criticized the department for “not taking any action or a position on the killing and mistreatment of people of color in the state of Oklahoma by law enforcement.”

“With the recent killing of Mr. Harris, the inhumane and malicious treatment after he was shot, and the refusal to provide medical treatment by the officers involved, shows a lack of care or respect when it comes to the life or death of African Americans in the State of Oklahoma,” the NAACP said in a statement.

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