Police Abuse

"Pay-to-Play" Cop Who Mistook His Gun for a Taser Sentenced to Four Years For Fatal Shooting

Judge upholds jury's sentence recommendation for Robert Bates, who killed Eric Harris in gun purchase sting operation.

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Robert Bates, Pay-to Play Cop
Tulsa County Sheriff's Department

Robert Bates, the 74-year-old insurance executive who reportedly donated thousands of dollars to win himself the privilege of being a "volunteer" sheriff's deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was sentenced to four years in prison yesterday for the fatal shooting of 44-year-old black man Eric Harris in 2015. 

Harris was the target of a sting operation where officers hoped to catch him in the act of making an illegal gun sale. When Harris took off running, officers gave chase. Once they caught up with Harris, he was brought to the ground and Bates reached for what he thought was his taser, but was instead his department-issued firearm and shot Harris. 

Bates immediately said, "I'm sorry," while Harris screamed in agony that he was losing his breath. Another officer told Harris "fuck your breath," and blamed the dying man for his predicament because he ran from them. All of this was caught on the body camera worn by one of the officers. 

Despite pleas for leniency, the judge upheld the all-white jury's recommendation that Bates be sentenced to the maximum four years allowed for a second-degree manslaughter conviction. Tulsa's News 9 showed video of one woman angrily leaving the courthouse saying, "Yeah, the criminal won. Good ole Eric Harris."

Bates' attorneys called the killing "excusable homicide" and blamed Harris' death on his questionable health and the fact that methamphetamine was found in his system, rather than the bullet Bates put into Harris' body. 

Reason's Ed Krayewski wrote in April at the time of Bates' conviction that "Prosecutors also argued Bates showed a lack of 'reasonable' care by volunteering for the sting the night before. Other deputies testified they saw Bates sleeping in his car before the operation against Harris, who the deputies testified they told Bates was dangerous and likely armed."

NBC News reports that Harris' death led to a full accounting of the many bureaucratic missteps which allowed an elderly private citizen to be in an official police situation with the authority to use deadly force:

Following the shooting, an outside consultant hired to review the sheriff's office determined that the agency suffered from a "system-wide failure of leadership and supervision" and had been in a "perceptible decline" for more than a decade. The reserve deputy program was later suspended.

Weeks after Harris was killed, an internal sheriff's office memo from 2009 was released by an attorney for Harris' family that alleged superiors knew Bates didn't have enough training but pressured others to look the other way because of his relationship with the sheriff and the agency.

You can watch the body camera footage of Eric Harris' shooting below (Warning: Disturbing content): 

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  1. Foolish man. You have to have a real badge to get away with murder.

    Glad to see there’s some justice, somewhere.

    1. I live the comments and argument he deserved probation because this is what other incompetent cops who kill get.

  2. Bates immediately said, “I’m sorry,”

    That’s where you fucked up, Rob. A real cop would have speeddialed his union rep while his buddies confiscated phones.

    1. He obviously lacked the depraved indifference required to be a police officer.

    2. Last week was some “Asian-American awareness” hooey in NYC and guess whom lots of them were rallying around – literally?

      Yes, the cop who shot an innocent kid dead. He deserves to be let off because “he’s one of ours” don’t you know.

      1. I wasn’t aware there were any Americans of Asian descent.

        1. Native Americans basically are

      2. This is why I don’t take BLM and similar bowel movements seriously, because they’re full of shit. Their problem isn’t with abusive, insulated police but with taking scalps.

  3. Hey, don’t try and misdirect the issue. The gorilla was KILLED!

    1. Irish is the true connoisseur, but I’ll give it a go; B+ delivery with just the right amount of thinly-veiled racism. My compliments to the chef.

  4. Once they caught up with Harris, he was brought to the ground and Bates reached for what he thought was his taser,

    If he was already down, why tase him?

    1. You would make a terrible cop, RC.

    2. Because that’s often the only way to relieve the pressure his massive erection was putting on the pants of his police costume.

      1. his massive erection raging minichub

        1. Massive is relative. Probably akin to a chinaman in an ice bath. But to him, it’s fucking huge.

  5. These goddamn flyover states where they treat cops like gods and they get away literally with murder of black men. Nowhere near as civilized as a progressive utopia like California, where any cop that accidentally pulled a gun instead of a taser and executed someone on a train platform would be spending decades behind bars in the name of social justice.

    Right?

    1. Damn straight. You never hear about police cruelty in places like New York or Chicago either.

      1. I laugh and laugh when progs pretty much accuse those cops of being republicans. Never mind the local political machine (team blue) that the union works hand in hand with to create a permanent overclass of cops, prosecutors and government toadies. Nope, it’s the right wingers that are doing all of this. They just happen to be on the (closed shop) Union payroll.

      2. You never hear about police cruelty in places like New York or Chicago either.

        And I never read commenters here chiming in how horribly racist the North is when this stuff happens there…

  6. Tulsa’s News 9 showed video of one woman angrily leaving the courthouse saying, “Yeah, the criminal won. Good ole Eric Harris.”

    You mean the dead guy?

    1. Yeah. The dead guy is on the top o’ the world, ma!

      1. It’s the hate that I’ve found
        Ever since you’ve been around
        Your hate put me at the top of the world….

  7. that alleged superiors knew Bates didn’t have enough training

    This is obvious. The old fool didn’t even have a throwdown gun with him.

  8. What a sad incident. At least some justice is done, and it’s likely a life sentence for him.

  9. Seems like the old man shouldn’t be the only one getting some comeuppance here.

    1. Oh you can bet your ass the top brass won’t get off light. My guess is that they’ll have at least 40 hours of (paid, on overtime) training to make damn certain this doesn’t happen for at least a few years.

      How’s that for a comeuppance?

      1. It looks like the sheriff was indicted on misdemeanor charges for withholding information from the investigation. His punishment as far as I can tell consists of letting him retire.

        1. I want to obstruct justice so I can retire as well. Where do I sign up for this sweet setup?

          1. Your IQ is much too high for police work. Qualifying candidates cannot have more than a two digit quotient.

          2. First you have to become a cop. I’m not sure you qualify. Are you are a sociopath with a mile wide sadistic streak?

            1. Please check all that apply:

              ? routinely beat younger sibling(s)
              ? routinely beats spouse
              ? dismembered or disemboweled live animals as a child
              ? dismembers or disembowels live animals as an adult
              ? threatens or has threatened neighbors overt trivial matters
              ? shot or considered shooting the neighbor’s yappy fucking dog
              ? wish to kill a man just to watch him die

  10. Robert Bates, the 74-year-old insurance executive who reportedly donated thousands of dollars to win himself the privilege of being a “volunteer” sheriff’s deputy…

    IOW, not a real cop, so I’m assuming he didn’t have union protection. Now we know what it takes to get a cop sentenced to prison: take away their union protection. Too bad it’ll never happen.

  11. Maybe Reason should report on real hero cops for a change!

    Brooklyn bike lane named for NYPD Inspector Michael Ameri, top cop who killed himself amid corruption probe

    The 44-year-old came under scrutiny by investigators probing the gifts-for-favors NYPD corruption probe in the weeks before he killed himself, police sources said.

    He was interviewed twice by investigators as part of the ongoing probe into alleged preferential police treatment cops gave Orthodox businessmen Jeremy Reichberg, 42, and Jona Rechnitz, 33.

    The pair were de Blasio campaign contributors and members of the mayor’s inauguration committee. And both were suspected of gifting cops with jewels and lavish trips in return for favors like police escorts.

    Ameri took over the Highway Unit in July 2014. The divorced dad became a proponent of Vision Zero, the campaign to curb traffic fatalities and injuries on city streets. He was also a proponent of passing legislation making it easier for city cops to take a saliva swab at the scene of traffic accidents to identify drug-addled drivers.

    1. Take notice, Seattle. That’s how you do a bike lane system. You name the parts after corrupt public officials.

    2. Idiot – you take a nice vacation on the taxpayers’ dime and then you kill yourself.

      1. I’m wondering if his wife gets his pension for life on the taxpayer dime.

        1. I’d be shocked if she didn’t.

    3. …top cop who killed himself…

      He’s an hero.

  12. One can’t help but think what the result would have been had this old fart been a real cop.

  13. upheld the all-white jury’s

    Nice. Using NPRs journalistic tic to explain what’s wrong with America.

    1. Except that this all-white jury convicted the pseudo-cop of killing a black man.

      1. I know, that’s why I thought it was a nice flourish. It’s more fun when “all-white jury” gives you unexpected results.

  14. Fucking Tulsa. I bet they didn’t even fill the courtroom with officers that stared down the jury box.
    :hears it whispered that this guy wasn’t in the union or a regular cop:
    Oh, nevermind then. The conviction makes sense now.

  15. Stupid fucking pigs running around killing people. That’s what’s wrong with this country. Can’t they teach these people basic human rights? Seriously they should disarm all the cops and let people do as they please. McAfee was right. The LP picked the wrong guy. The voters should be fed feet first into a woodchipper.

    (How’d I do?)

      1. I see grade inflation is alive and well.

        1. I believe everyone should have a chance to succeed, even if they get here on the short bus.

        2. Hey – I put a lot of effort into that.

            1. Commenting here improved considerably when I finally installed reasonable.

              1. Be careful, he’s going to spaz out soon.

  16. “Bates immediately said, “I’m sorry,” while Harris screamed in agony that he was losing his breath. Another officer told Harris “fuck your breath,” and blamed the dying man for his predicament because he ran from them. All of this was caught on the body camera worn by one of the officers.”

    Fuck your breath. There you go people. A professional at play right there. You sell an illegal gun then you deserve to die if you run away from cops. Lord me these people are inhumane psychos.

    “Despite pleas for leniency, the judge upheld the all-white jury’s recommendation that Bates be sentenced to the maximum four years allowed for a second-degree manslaughter conviction. Tulsa’s News 9 showed video of one woman angrily leaving the courthouse saying, “Yeah, the criminal won. Good ole Eric Harris.”

    Yeh poor old dead Eric Harris killed by a moron. I mean, if you run from cops it’s duck AND rabbit season on your ass.

    Idiots.

      1. Listen, you’re not a libertarian, or a Libertarian, and you seem to have constant complaints about the content and the posters.

        Why not just find somewhere else more to your liking?

    1. You know what I didn’t see?

      A cop calling an ambulance.

  17. Why aren’t any ”real” pigs going to jail?

  18. I’ll just note that once again, it was a “department issued” firearm that Bates used to shoot Harris.
    Why does this matter ?

  19. I say off with his head at once. Off with it.

    http://www.Complete-Privacy.tk

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