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Not guilty: Tulsa County reserve deputy Robert Bates enters plea on manslaughter charge

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(CNN) — An Oklahoma reserve sheriff’s deputy accused of fatally shooting a man he says he meant to subdue with a Taser pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge of second-degree manslaughter.

Eric Courtney Harris

Eric Courtney Harris

At the hearing, the judge granted Robert Bates permission to go to the Bahamas for a family vacation.

That decision prompted a response from the family of Eric Harris, the man Bates killed.

“We are not surprised that Mr. Bates pled not guilty. We are, however, surprised that Mr. Bates would choose to go on a vacation to the Bahamas during this tumultuous time. 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. 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.”

Bates’ preliminary hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. July 2.

“This will give us an opportunity to deal with the facts in the courtroom instead of the media and we’re looking very much forward to that,” said Clark Brewster, one of his lawyers, after the hearing.

Bates, 73, was working as a reserve deputy for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office on April 2 when he was involved the arrest of Eric Harris in a weapons sting operation.

Bates claims he meant to stun Harris with a Taser after Harris fled from officers, but mistakenly shot Harris with a gun instead.

Bates has said the shooting was accidental. He has apologized to the Harris family, as has Sheriff Stanley Glanz.

The lawyer for the family of the man who was killed claims that Bates wasn’t qualified to be on the force, but received preferential treatment because he’d made donations to the agency and was a friend of the sheriff.

The Tulsa World newspaper reported some supervisors in the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office were told to forge Bates’ records and were reassigned when they refused.

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office has denied these allegations.

Over the weekend, one of Bates’ lawyers released most of his training documents and said they prove Bates had proper law enforcement training.

Two deputies involved in arrest of Harris have been reassigned because of threats against them and their families, Glanz said Monday in a news conference.

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