Oklahoma deputy who killed suspect found guilty of manslaughter

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Manslaughter charge in Oklahoma shooting

TULSA, Okla. (Reuters) -- The Oklahoma volunteer reserve deputy who fatally shot an unarmed suspect being subdued by regular deputies last year was found guilty of manslaughter on Wednesday by a jury that recommended he serve the maximum of four years in prison.

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Prosecutors told jurors that Robert Bates, 74, an insurance executive who volunteered as a reserve sheriff's deputy, deserved to be sent to prison for thrusting himself into the situation when there were several qualified deputies on the scene who could subdue the man.

It took the jury about three hours to reach a verdict.

Lawyers for Bates contended that he mistakenly thought he had a Taser in hand when he shot Eric Harris, 44, not realizing he had a pistol.

Photos related to the case:

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Tulsa Oklahoma man Eric Courtney Harris shot by reserve officer - Robert Bates
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Oklahoma deputy who killed suspect found guilty of manslaughter
Robert Bates, a former Oklahoma volunteer sheriff's deputy who said he mistook his handgun for his stun gun when he fatally shot an unarmed suspect in 2015, is escorted from the courtroom following his sentencing at the courthouse in Tulsa, Okla., Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Bates, who was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, was sentenced to four years. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Aidan Fraley, center, the son of Eric Harris, an unarmed suspect who was shot and killed by Robert Bates, a former Oklahoma volunteer sheriff's deputy, talks to the media following the sentencing for Bates, at the courthouse in Tulsa, Okla., Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Bates, who was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, was sentenced to four years in prison. At left is Aidan Fraley's mother, Cathy Fraley. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Eric Courtney Harris

Image courtesy: Tulsa County Sheriff's Office

Robert Bates, a former Oklahoma volunteer sheriffâs deputy who said he mistook his handgun for his stun gun when he fatally shot an unarmed suspect last year, is escorted from the courtroom following his sentencing at the courthouse in Tulsa, Okla., Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Bates, who was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, was sentenced to four years. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Robert Bates, a former Oklahoma volunteer sheriff's deputy who said he mistook his handgun for his stun gun when he fatally shot an unarmed suspect last year, is escorted to the courtroom for his sentencing at the courthouse in Tulsa, Okla., Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Bates was convicted of second-degree manslaughter. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Clark Brewster, defense attorney for Robert Bates, a former Oklahoma volunteer sheriff's deputy who said he mistook his handgun for his stun gun when he fatally shot an unarmed suspect last year, talks with the media following sentencing for Bates at the courthouse in Tulsa, Okla., Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Bates, who was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, was sentenced to four years in prison. Brewster said they are planning an appeal. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Robert Bates, a former Oklahoma volunteer sheriff's deputy who said he mistook his handgun for his stun gun when he fatally shot an unarmed suspect last year, blows a kiss to family members as he is escorted to the courtroom for his sentencing at the courthouse in Tulsa, Okla., Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Bates was convicted of second-degree manslaughter. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Robert Bates, a former Oklahoma volunteer sheriff's deputy who said he mistook his handgun for his stun gun when he fatally shot an unarmed suspect last year, arrives for his sentencing at the courthouse in Tulsa, Okla., Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Bates was convicted of second-degree manslaughter. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
FILE - This Tuesday, April 14, 2015 file photo provided by the Tulsa County, Okla., Sheriff's Office shows Robert Bates. Bates, a former Oklahoma volunteer sheriff's deputy who says he mistook his handgun for his stun gun when he fatally shot an unarmed suspect has been convicted of second-degree manslaughter. Jurors announced the verdict Wednesday, April 27, 2016 in the case. The insurance executive fatally shot Eric Harris while working with Tulsa County sheriff's deputies last year. Harris was restrained and unarmed at the time. (Tulsa County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
Aidan Fraley, center, the son of Eric Harris, an unarmed suspect who was shot and killed by Robert Bates, a former Oklahoma volunteer sheriff's deputy, talks to the media following the sentencing for Bates at the courthouse in Tulsa, Okla., Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Bates, who was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, was sentenced to four years in prison. At left is Aidan Fraley's mother, Cathy Fraley. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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. The sheriff's office said 73-year-old reserve deputy Robert Charles Bates fired the shot that killed Harris, believing he was using his stun gun instead of his service weapon when he opened fire. (AP Photo/Tulsa County Sheriff's Office)
CLEET Executive Director Steve Emmons, left, speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, April 29, 2015. A bill in the Oklahoma Senate would increase from 240 to 300 hours the amount of training a reserve officer must receive. Reserve officer training requirements have come under scrutiny after volunteer deputy Robert Bates drew his firearm instead of a stun gun and shot a suspect who was being held down during an April 2 undercover sting in Tulsa. Looking on are state Sen. Ralph Shortey, center, R-Oklahoma City and state Rep. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel speaks at a news conference in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, April 29, 2015. A bill in the Oklahoma Senate would increase from 240 to 300 hours the amount of training a reserve officer must receive. Reserve officer training requirements have come under scrutiny after volunteer deputy Robert Bates drew his firearm instead of a stun gun and shot a suspect who was being held down during an April 2 undercover sting in Tulsa. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma state Rep. John Bennett, left, R-Sallisaw, speaks at a news conference in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, April 29, 2015. A bill in the Oklahoma Senate would increase from 240 to 300 hours the amount of training a reserve officer must receive. Reserve officer training requirements have come under scrutiny after volunteer deputy Robert Bates drew his firearm instead of a stun gun and shot a suspect who was being held down during an April 2 undercover sting in Tulsa. From left are Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel, Bennett, state Sen. Ralph Shortey, state Rep. Anastasia Pittman, and state Rep. Mike Christian. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma state Rep. Johnny Tadlock, D-Idabel, speaks at a news conference in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, April 29, 2015. Prior to running for the House, Tadlock served as county sheriff. A bill in the Oklahoma Senate would increase from 240 to 300 hours the amount of training a reserve officer must receive. . Reserve officer training requirements have come under scrutiny after volunteer deputy Robert Bates drew his firearm instead of a stun gun and shot a suspect who was being held down during an April 2 undercover sting in Tulsa. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma state Rep. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, speaks at a news conference in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, April 29, 2015. A bill in the Oklahoma Senate would increase from 240 to 300 hours the amount of training a reserve officer must receive. Reserve officer training requirements have come under scrutiny after volunteer deputy Robert Bates drew his firearm instead of a stun gun and shot a suspect who was being held down during an April 2 undercover sting in Tulsa. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
CLEET Executive Director Steve Emmons speaks during a news conference in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, April 29, 2015. A bill in the Oklahoma Senate would increase from 240 to 300 hours the amount of training a reserve officer must receive. Reserve officer training requirements have come under scrutiny after volunteer deputy Robert Bates drew his firearm instead of a stun gun and shot a suspect who was being held down during an April 2 undercover sting in Tulsa. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Robert Bates, left, leaves his arraignment with his daughter, Leslie McCreary, right, in Tulsa, Okla., Tuesday, April 21, 2015. Bates, a 73-year-old Tulsa County reserve deputy who fatally shot a suspect who was pinned down by officers, pleaded not guilty to a second-degree manslaughter charge. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
This Tuesday, April 14, 2015 photo provided by the Tulsa County, Oklahoma, Sheriff's Office shows Robert Bates. The 73-year-old Oklahoma reserve sheriff's deputy, who authorities said fatally shot a suspect after confusing his stun gun and handgun, was booked into the county jail Tuesday on a manslaughter charge. Bates surrendered to the Tulsa County Jail and was released after posting $25,000 bond. (Tulsa County Sheriff's Office via AP)
In this photo provided by the Tulsa County, Oklahoma, Sheriff's Office is Tulsa County reserve deputy Robert Bates. Police say Bates, a 73-year-old white reserve deputy, thought he was holding a stun gun, not his handgun, when he fired at 44-year-old Eric Harris in an April 2 incident. Harris, who is black, was treated by medics at the scene and died in a Tulsa hospital. (Tulsa County Sheriff's Office via AP)
A white reserve sheriff's deputy thought he was holding a stun gun, not his handgun, when he fatally shot a black suspect during an arrest that was caught on video in Tulsa, Oklahoma, police said.
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Bates is white and Harris was African-American. The shooting, captured on video, was one in a series that raised questions of racial bias in U.S. policing.

Harris was fleeing from deputies last April in Tulsa during a sting targeting illegal gun sales.

"You can expect human error," defense lawyer Clark Brewster told the all-white jury. "It is not a mistake one goes to prison over."

Prosecutor Kevin Gray told jurors in closing arguments that Bates made the decision to leave his car, join the deputies and draw a weapon on Harris, who was on the ground.

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"People make mistakes all the time, but to equate the shooting of Eric Harris with that is absurd," he said.

In a video seen previously in the media and played in court at the start of the trial a week ago, a Tulsa County deputy subdues Harris and a voice identified as Bates' says, "Taser, Taser."

A gunshot is then heard. A man Oklahoma authorities identified as Bates is heard saying "Oh, I shot him. I'm sorry."

Harris is heard screaming, "He shot me. Oh my God."

A deputy replies, telling Harris to "shut up," and shouts a profanity at him.

Harris, who said in the video he was having trouble breathing, later died at a Tulsa hospital.

The incident prompted the suspension of the reserve deputy program, a grand jury investigation of the sheriff's department and the Nov. 1 resignation of Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz.

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