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Ex-volunteer deputy who fatally shot unarmed man in Oklahoma found guilty

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Wealthy insurance executive Robert Bates faces up to four years in prison for killing of Eric Harris, who Bates shot after mistaking his own handgun for Taser

A former Oklahoma volunteer sheriffs deputy who said he mistook his handgun for his stun gun when he fatally shot an unarmed suspect last year was convicted of second-degree manslaughter on Wednesday.

Jurors handed down the verdict in the case of 74-year-old Robert Bates, a wealthy insurance executive accused of fatally shooting Eric Harris while working with Tulsa County sheriffs deputies last year during an illegal gun sales sting. Harris, who had run from deputies, was restrained and unarmed when he was shot.

The shooting which was caught on video sparked several investigations that, among other things, revealed an internal 2009 memo questioning Bates qualifications as a volunteer deputy and showed that Bates, a close friend of the sheriffs, had donated thousands of dollars in cash, vehicles and equipment to the agency.

Bates faces up to four years in prison.

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Eric Harris. Photograph: Uncredited/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Bates defense attorneys argued at trial that methamphetamine found in Harris system, along with his cardiac health, caused his death. Defense attorneys called the killing an excusable homicide.

But prosecutors told jurors that Bates was guilty of culpable negligence when he shot Harris. One deputy testified that Bates apparently dozed off minutes before Harris fled from deputies.

Following the shooting, an outside consultant hired to review the sheriffs office determined that it suffered from a system-wide failure of leadership and supervision and had been in a perceptible decline for more than a decade. The reserve deputy program was later suspended.

Weeks after Harris was killed, an internal sheriffs office memo from 2009 was released by an attorney for Harris family that alleged superiors knew Bates didnt have enough training but pressured others to look the other way because of his relationship with the sheriff and the agency.

A grand jury also investigated the agency and indicted the longtime sheriff, Stanley Glanz, in September, accusing him of failing to release the 2009 memo. He resigned on 1 November.

The new sheriff, who was sworn into office earlier this month, has detailed plans to reform and revive the reserve deputy program.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/27/police-fatal-shooting-oklahoma-guilty-eric-harris-robert-bates

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