Home / National News / Reserve Deputy Robert Bates' Weapons Training in Question After Shooting


(TULSA, Okla.) — An Oklahoma newspaper is alleging that Robert Bates, the volunteer reserve deputy now charged with killing an unarmed man, may not have been fully trained to handle his weapons.

Bates, 73, turned himself in at the Tulsa, Oklahoma, County Jail on Tuesday on a second-degree manslaughter charge in connection with the deadly April 2 shooting of suspect Eric Harris.

Bates, an unpaid volunteer reserve deputy, “shot the victim with a Smith & Wesson Revolver which at the time he shot it he believed it to be a Taser gun,” according to court filings.

Tulsa World reported that, according to sources, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office had falsified “training records,” including “firearms certifications.” The newspaper also alleged that “supervisors were transferred after refusing to sign off.”

Ziva Branstetter, an editor and reporter for Tulsa World, told ABC News she was “extremely confident” in the newspaper’s sources and that the newspaper had worked on the story for two weeks.

“They’re all very solid sources,” she said Friday. “They’re people who have been concerned about Deputy Bates and his lack of training for quite a while and came forward.”

The April 2 shooting happened after a sting operation, when Harris, 44, ran from police after allegedly selling drugs and guns to an undercover deputy.

Video released by the sheriff’s office showed Harris getting into a car and pulling a gun out of his backpack. Less than a minute later, a car pulls up, and when deputies get out, Harris runs. A second video shows officers pursuing the suspect and then appearing to struggle to subdue him.

After a single gunshot, someone says, “I shot him! I’m sorry.” According to the sheriff’s office, the words were spoken by Bates just after he fired his weapon, when he realized that he hadn’t shot his Taser.

Both the sheriff’s department and Bates’ attorney say he was well-trained. The sheriff’s department Friday refused to respond to the allegations to the contrary because the newspaper used unnamed sources.

“The media outlet that is putting this information out is using unconfirmed and identified sources and also relying on anonymity,” said a public information officer Friday. “We don’t respond to rumor.”

Branstetter said Friday that there was a lot of public outrage in Tulsa.

“They want accountability,” she said. “They also want the FBI to step in. … No one has confidence in the sheriff’s department.”

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