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Robert Bates, Oklahoma Reserve Deputy, Pleads Not Guilty to Manslaughter

He is charged in the shooting death of Eric Harris on April 2.
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/ Source: NBC News

Robert Bates, the Oklahoma reserve sheriff’s deputy who says he mistook his gun for his Taser when he shot and killed a man earlier this month, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to second-degree manslaughter.

A judge set a hearing for July 2. The judge allowed Bates to take a previously planned vacation to the Bahamas. Bates did not address reporters as he entered and left court.

Bates, a 73-year-old retired insurance executive who volunteered with the sheriff’s department in Tulsa, was providing backup during a sting on April 2. He shot and killed Eric Harris, who had allegedly tried to sell a gun to an undercover officer and then bolted.

A lawyer for the Harris family, Dan Smolen, said he was not surprised that Bates had pleaded not guilty — but he was surprised about the vacation.

“Whether intended or not, Mr. Bates' vacationing in the Bahamas at this time sends a message of apathy with respect to the shooting and Eric's life,” he said. “At a time when we are still mourning the death of a loved one that he shot down in the street, Mr. Bates will be relaxing and enjoying his wealth and privilege."

Sheriff Stanley Glanz apologized to the Harris family on Monday — “We are sorry Eric was taken from you” — and said it was proper for Bates to have been on the operation.

Bates told TODAY last week that shooting Harris was “No. 1 on my list of things in my life that I regret.”


— Gabe Gutierrez and Erin McClam