Robert Bates, Former Tulsa Reserve Sheriff's Deputy, Convicted For Shooting Eric Harris In Oklahoma : The Two-Way Robert Bates, a volunteer with the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office in Oklahoma, killed Eric Harris in a sting operation last year. The jury found him guilty of second-degree manslaughter.
NPR logo Ex-Reserve Deputy Who Confused Gun With Taser, Killing Suspect, Is Convicted

Ex-Reserve Deputy Who Confused Gun With Taser, Killing Suspect, Is Convicted

Robert Bates arrives for his arraignment at the Tulsa County Courthouse in Tulsa, Okla., on April 21, 2015. Bates has been convicted of second-degree manslaughter. Sue Ogrocki/AP hide caption

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Sue Ogrocki/AP

Robert Bates arrives for his arraignment at the Tulsa County Courthouse in Tulsa, Okla., on April 21, 2015. Bates has been convicted of second-degree manslaughter.

Sue Ogrocki/AP

A former reserve deputy in Oklahoma who said he mistook his gun for his Taser when he shot and killed a suspect has been convicted of second-degree manslaughter. Robert Bates, 74, was a volunteer with the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office when he killed Eric Harris during a sting operation in April 2015.

Tulsa World describes the incident, which began with Harris allegedly selling a gun to an undercover deputy, this way:

"As multiple deputies struggled to restrain Harris on the ground after a short pursuit, Bates approached holding a nonlethal weapon in one hand and a lethal one in the other, [Assistant District Attorney John David] Luton reminded jurors.

"Seeing a small area of Harris' body where he wasn't covered by deputies, Bates announced that he was going to use his Taser and shot a bullet that struck Harris inches from another deputy's head, witnesses testified."

The jury recommended the maximum sentence of four years in prison; sentencing is scheduled for May 31.

NPR's Martin Kaste has reported that some people in law enforcement think the tradition of volunteer policing should end.

Eric Harris, seen in an undated photo provided by the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, was shot and killed by Robert Bates in April 2015. Tulsa County Sheriff's Office via AP hide caption

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Tulsa County Sheriff's Office via AP

"Law enforcement is one of the few professions that allows people to play at the profession," Police Chief Ray Johnson of Chesterfield, Mo., told Martin.

Bates' training and behavior on the job came under scrutiny during his trial, but they had also been the subject of a 2009 internal Sheriff's Office investigation, CBS News uncovered.

"The investigation concluded Bates' training was questionable and that he was given preferential treatment," the broadcaster found. CBS has also reported that Bates was close to former Sheriff Stanley Glanz and donated "thousands" to the Tulsa sheriff's department.