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Reserve deputy convicted in Eric Harris' death sees similarities to Daunte Wright's death

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Posted at 6:00 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-12 23:56:03-04

TULSA, Okla. — A Minneapolis police officer said she shot Daunte Wright by accident, she meant to fire her taser not her gun.

For Tulsans, it sounded familiar in 2015 former Tulsa County Sheriff Reserve Deputy Bob Bates shot and killed Eric Harris, but said he meant to use his taser, not his gun.

RELATED STORY: Officer who shot Daunte Wright charged with manslaughter

In 2016, Tulsa jurors convicted Bates of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced him to four years in prison, the maximum penalty. He got out after 18 months with good behavior.

“I was sitting right here watching the television and thinking, 'Oh my God, it’s happened again,'" Bates said.

Seeing the shooting death of Wright brought a rush of jarring memories for Bates. Wright died after a traffic stop in Minneapolis. Police said he tried climbing back into his vehicle. Body camera video shows Officer Kim Potter yelled "taser" but then fired her gun, shooting and killing Wright.

SEE MORE: Tulsa firearms instructor explains taser, handgun differences after 'accidental discharge' death

"This situation in Minnesota in Brooklyn Center is an exact for word to word the same thing that I did," Bates said.

Bates was a reserve deputy with the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office working an undercover gun buy involving a man named Eric Harris.

“They jumped him and got him on the ground," Bates said. "I was on his back. He was fighting, and we were trying to get handcuffs on him. His arm was underneath his body, and I couldn’t get him to give it me."

Bates claims he was under tremendous stress, and the only way he felt he could get Harris under control was to use the taser.

"So, I yelled, 'taser, taser, taser,' and shot him with the sidearm that was on my right side," Bates said.

Harris died from the gunshot wound. 2 News asked Bates how he confused his gun for his taser.

"My mind was Sharon, that there were three young guys at his head," he said. "If he’s got a gun underneath him and pulls it out, it’s likely that he’s going to go back like that and shoot me. I think one of them had two or three kids, and that was all going through my mind."

During his trial, Bates' attorney used a theory called Slip and Capture as a defense for what happened.

“The slip and capture is when you think you are going to do something, and because of the stress and so forth, you don’t, and you do the wrong thing," he said. "It happens over and over and over."

At the time of the shooting, some questioned Bates' training and felt that he was given special access to high-risk undercover operations due to his friendship with then sheriff, Stanley Glanz.

"They accused me of not being properly trained with a taser, and I went to the taser class just like every other deputy," Bates said. "I have been a policeman at the Tulsa Police Department a few years ago. And I had completed most of the hours that I was supposed to at the sheriff’s office."

Former Sheriff Stanley Glanz later pleaded to a misdemeanor for failing to release a 2009 memo questioning Bates' training. READ MORE: 2009 memo questioned Bates' training

SEE MORE: Report calls for changes at TCSO

Bates said he still deals with night terrors and PTSD.

“I feel badly about what happened," he said. "I feel badly about you know that he died after his encounter with me. I feel sorry for his family, and I feel sorry for the young man in Minnesota."

Bates' wife, Charlotte, said the death of Harris haunts her husband and their entire family.

“Bob was physically ill over what happened with Eric Harris," she said. "Bob suffers from PTSD as he told you, and has horrible nightmares about this, and we are just truly sorry that it happened."

Charlotte said this tragedy left both families emotionally shattered.

“When someone loses their life, it’s just heartbreaking, not only for our family, but for the other family as well," she said.

Harris' family previously talked about the struggle to heal while seeking justice for Harris' death. READ MORE: One year after Eric Harris' death

2 News reached out to the family of Harris, but they declined to interview to focus on healing. In 2018, Tulsa County paid $6 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the Harris family.

TONIGHT at 10 p.m., 2 News' Sharon Phillips sits down with Bates to discuss the similarities of the two incidents and their lasting effects years later.

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