TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A white former Oklahoma volunteer deputy who fatally shot an unarmed black man says he’s sorry for the man’s family, but that the shooting also disrupted his own life.
“I feel very bad about it,” Robert Bates told KTUL-TV in his first public comments since the 2015 shooting that killed Eric Harris. “It has been a very disruptive thing in my life. I feel sorry for his son, his ex-wife and family. It bothers me,” Bates said in the interview that aired Thursday.
Bates, 77, shot and killed Harris while Harris was already on the ground being restrained by other deputies during an illegal gun sale sting. He said he mistakenly pulled his handgun instead of his stun gun.
Bates was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison, but he served less than half that time before being paroled. He was seen earlier this year allegedly drinking alcohol, which would have violated his parole. But a state Department of Corrections spokesman, Matt Elliott, said an investigation found no evidence that Bates had been drinking.
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Bates, who now lives in Florida, said he was surprised that he was sent to prison.
“What kind of purpose did it do to put me in prison? I mean it’s the law, but, you know, I was rather surprised … that I ended up in prison,” Bates said. “I think I served more than enough time.”
An attorney for Harris’ family did not immediately return a Friday call seeking comment.