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Eric Harris Shooting: Colleagues Questioned Robert Bates' Behavior in 2008

A sergeant told a captain that Robert Bates was using his personal vehicle to make unauthorized traffic stops, a violation of sheriff’s department policy.
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/ Source: NBC News

Colleagues questioned the on-duty behavior of Robert Bates, the volunteer sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed a man in Oklahoma, as early as 2008, according to documents obtained by NBC News.

In a memo dated Dec. 17, 2008, a sergeant told a captain that Bates was using his personal vehicle to make unauthorized traffic stops, a violation of sheriff’s office policy.

“What is the purpose of having policy if members of our office do not follow it and we as supervisors allow violations because of who persons are?” the sergeant wrote.

Bates, 73, a retired insurance executive who served as a reserve deputy, is a longtime friend, political supporter and campaign contributor to Stanley Glanz, the Tulsa County sheriff.

On April 2, Bates shot and killed Eric Harris, a suspect in an undercover gun sting. Bates said that he mistook his gun for his Taser. He has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter.

His lawyer, Clark Brewster, said: “The accusation’s been made that (Bates) received preferential treatment. I don’t believe that to be the case.”

As NBC News reported on Thursday, a 2009 internal review concluded that Bates had incomplete field training, violated policy and received special treatment, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation. When confronted, Bates said that anyone who took issue should talk to the sheriff, the review found.

Brewster said that he had not seen that review, but that his client “received hundreds of hours of training since 2009 and I know that no one at the (Eric Harris sting) operation had any complaints about him serving in the capacity as a containment officer.”

A spokesman for the sheriff’s office, Maj. Shannon Clark, would only say that a review was conducted in 2009, but that no action was ever taken.

Lawyers for the Harris family have called for the sheriff to resign.

In an interview on TODAY last week, Bates apologized to the Harris family and said that the shooting was his biggest regret in life.


— Gabe Gutierrez