Robert Bates, the 74-year-old former Tulsa County Reserve Sheriff who shot and killed an unarmed Black man, Eric Harris, 44, was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison.
Judge William Musseman followed the jury’s recommendation for Bates to receive the maximum sentence in Harris’ death.
Bates was found guilty last month of second-degree murder for the April 2, 2015 gun sting operation in Tulsa, Oklahoma that left Harris dead. Harris was caught on video taking part in an illegal gun sales operation.
He was taken by surprise and ran from deputies, but eventually restrained and shot by Bates, who yelled, “Taser! Taser!” before discharging his firearm, reports NBC News. Bates later said, “I shot him. I’m sorry,” on camera. The former sheriff claimed he mistook his gun for his taser.
In this screen shot from April 2, 2015 video provided by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, police restrain 44-year-old Eric Harris after he was chased down and tackled by a Tulsa County Deputy, and then shot by a reserve sheriff’s deputy while in custody, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office)
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.
An internal memo was released from 2009 by an attorney for Harris’ family that claimed supervisors knew Bates wasn’t skilled in training, but required others to look past it because of his relationship with the sheriff and the agency, according to NBC.
Robert Bates, right, arrives at the Tulsa County Jail with his attorney, Clark Brewster, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, in Tulsa, Okla. (Matt Barnard/Tulsa World via AP)
“Four years to me doesn’t seem like anything when you compare it to a lifetime,” said Cathy Fraley in an interview with Tulsa World. Fraley is the mother to Harris’ son Aidan Fraley.
Charlotte Bates also testified on her husband’s behalf. She said he was a “wonderful servant of this community,” and begged the judge in a tearful plea to refrain from sending her husband to jail, writes Tulsa World.
Ultimately Judge Musseman disagreed saying, “(Bates) found himself in that position because of his own decisions.”