Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Pleads Not Guilty In Eric Harris Death

Tuesday, April 21st 2015, 8:14 am
By: Emory Bryan

A Tulsa County reserve deputy went before a judge Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to the charge of second degree manslaughter for the April 2 shooting death of Eric Harris.

Monday's plea did not stop Reserve Deputy Bob Bates from asking for, and getting permission, to go on a month-long vacation to the Bahamas he'd already planned.

The plea only sets the stage for the next step, a hearing on the evidence to decide whether the case should go to trial.

Bates walked into the courthouse Monday with a team of lawyers, even though it was a simple hearing just to enter a plea.

Bates does not deny shooting Harris, but his attorney Clark Brewster entered the not guilty plea as is routine in such cases.

The defense team is preparing for what's ahead when they fight back against the second degree manslaughter charge.

4/20/2015: TCSO, Harris Family Attorney Address Policies, 'False Records'

In court Bates entered a not guilty plea and his attorney had an unusual request - which the judge approved - permission for Bates to leave the country on a long planned vacation.

Bates has to be back to court in July for a hearing to determine whether there's enough evidence to send the deputy to trial.

"This will give us an opportunity to deal with the facts in the courtroom instead of in the media, and we're very much looking forward to that. Thank you," Brewster said.

Special Coverage: TCSO Reserve Deputy Shooting Controversy

Surrounded by a dozen camera crews, Bates worked his way out of the courthouse. He remains free on bond while the court case is pending.

The family of the suspect who was shot complained about his freedom while they are grieving.

Their attorney said it "sends a message of apathy" about the situation.

A group that's calling for change in the sheriff's office didn't like it either - complaining the sheriff promised to review policies about the reserve deputy program without making any changes so far.

4/21/2015 Related Story: Petition Delivered To TCSO Demands Changes To Reserve Deputy Program

“According to the sheriff, he stated he can change policies anytime he wants to, so we're going to make sure these policies change," Marq Lewis with We the People Oklahoma said.

The group marched from the courthouse Tuesday to the sheriff's office to deliver a petition they said had 1,000 names on it, asking for restrictions on the use of weapons by reserve deputies and a mandatory retirement age of 65.

The protest group is also holding a rally at the courthouse Friday evening at 7:00.

They've already had two of them, and said they'll keep the pressure on until they see change.