A judge’s decision to allow the deputy’s holiday sends a “message of apathy”, says the family of the man he is accused of killing.
A judge has allowed a 73-year-old reserve deputy who fatally shot a suspect in an apparent stun gun mix-up to go on holiday, after he denied manslaughter.
Robert Bates’ month-long vacation to the Bahamas was approved as he entered a not-guilty plea at his initial court appearance in Tulsa on Tuesday.
The volunteer deputy fatally shot Eric Harris on 2 April while helping officers pursue the 44-year-old convicted felon.
He is charged with second-degree manslaughter.
Police said Bates thought he was holding a stun gun, not his handgun, when he fired at Harris while officers attempted to restrain him.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Bates’ lawyer, Clark Brewster, told the judge his client’s vacation had been planned for months.
But the Harris family criticised the holiday, saying it sends a “message of apathy” regarding the shooting.
Harris was wanted by police for allegedly trying to sell illegal guns to undercover officers.
The deadly encounter was captured by another deputy’s body camera.
The footage showed Harris, who later died in hospital, attempting to flee officers before being tackled to the pavement.
As the deputies attempted to hold him down, a gunshot is heard, followed by a man purported to be Bates saying: “Oh, I shot him. I’m sorry.”
The incident drew comparisons to other police-involved shootings that have sparked national debate of police tactics.
Harris’ family questioned whether Bates was adequately trained and legally certified to work for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.
On Monday, Sheriff Stanley Glanz said the volunteer deputy was properly certified.
He also denied allegations levelled by Harris’ family that Bates’ records were falsified.
Lawyers for Harris’ family said the deputy’s records are incomplete.
They also said Bates’ gun – a Smith and Wesson .357 – was not approved for use by Tulsa deputies.