Robert Bates, the 73-year-old Tulsa sheriff’s department patron and volunteer deputy who shot suspect Eric Harris to death on April 2, pleaded not guilty of second-degree manslaughter Tuesday and was given permission by a judge to take a vacation to the Bahamas. (Bates has said he shot Harris by mistake while attempting to use a Taser.) Attorney Clark Brewster “told the judge Bates’ vacation had been planned for months,” the AP reports.* Bates’ next scheduled court appearance is July 2.
“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,” the Harris family said in a statement released by lawyer Dan Smolen. “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.”
The Tulsa World reported this week that Bates, who has donated five vehicles (as well as other equipment) to the sheriff’s department, did not complete the training and certification programs required to become a volunteer or “reserve” deputy. The sheriff’s department denies the allegations.
Harris was shot after attempting to flee from police during a sting operation in which he allegedly attempted to sell a stolen firearm to undercover officers.
*Correction, April 22, 2015: This post orignally misstated that Clark Brewster’s comments were reported by a news station called KSN. They were reported by the AP.