Tulsa sheriff: FBI has cleared reserve deputy of civil rights violation in fatal shooting

FBI: No civil rights violation in Tulsa shooting in which reserve deputy mistook gun for Taser

The FBI has determined a 73-year-old Tulsa County sheriff's reserve deputy did not violate the civil rights of a man he fatally shot this month when he mistook his personal handgun for a Taser, law enforcement officials said on Monday.

A review of the shooting found Reserve Deputy Robert Bates did not commit a civil rights violation when he shot Eric Harris, 44, said Maj. Shannon Clark, a spokesman for the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office.

Calls to the FBI in Oklahoma City were not immediately returned, and a spokesman for the agency previously told the Los Angeles Times there was no federal investigation into the shooting.

Clark told The Times that the special agent in charge of the FBI's Oklahoma City field office called Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz on Monday morning and "said that we were cleared of any civil rights violation." 

It was not immediately clear when the FBI investigation was launched.

Bates faces a manslaughter charge in Tulsa County in connection with Harris' death.

Earlier in the day, Glanz defended the amount of training received by Bates, whose qualifications have been called into question since the April 2 shooting. 

Harris’ family has said Bates did not receive sufficient training, but the businessman and reserve deputy has insisted he was well trained. Some records were released over the weekend showing that Bates had been tested in such areas as marksmanship; however, some documents may have been destroyed, Glanz told reporters.

The “training was not falsified that I’m aware of,” Glanz said.

On April 2, Harris was suspected of selling illegal guns. According to video of the incident, deputies moved in for the arrest and Harris fled and was captured by another deputy a short distance away.

Moments later, Bates approached, yelling “Taser, Taser!” Bates then fired one gunshot.

Bates later said he thought he was armed with his Taser but grabbed his personal gun instead. After an internal investigation, the sheriff's office decided Bates had not committed a crime.

The Tulsa County District Attorney's Office, however, has charged Bates with second-degree manslaughter; he could face a four-year prison sentence if he is convicted.

The two deputies at the scene have been reassigned pending the administrative review, Glanz said on Monday.

The Harris family has also raised questions about the relationship between Bates and the sheriff and whether that was a factor in allowing Bates to serve as a reserve deputy. Bates was Glanz's reelection campaign manager for sheriff in 2012 and has donated cars and equipment to the department.

Glanz said it was not unusual for rich members of the public to donate resources to the department. The sheriff also said he had a 25-year relationship with Bates, who was his personal insurance agent.

Glanz defended the reserve deputy program, which supplements the regular police force in many jurisdictions.

“We followed national standards for the program,” Glanz said. The role of the reserve force will be part of the review, Glanz said.

Though he has defended the program and Bates, Glanz reached out to the Harris family as well.

“We are sorry Eric was taken from you,” the sheriff said.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

1:49 p.m.: This story updated with information about the FBI's review of the shooting

The first version of this post published at 8:55 a.m.

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