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Wealthy Volunteer Sheriff's Deputy Convicted In Death Of Unarmed Black Man

Robert Bates, 74, was reaching for his Taser but grabbed his gun instead when he shot Eric Harris during an undercover sting.

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A former volunteer sheriff's deputy who mistook his gun for a Taser when he shot an unarmed black man during an undercover sting in Oklahoma was convicted Wednesday of second-degree manslaughter.

Robert Bates, a wealthy 74-year-old insurance executive form Tulsa, could face up to four years in prison in the accidental shooting that was captured on video last year, the Associated Press reported. Bates could be heard screaming in the video after pulling the trigger: "I shot him! I'm sorry."

Eric Harris, who fled from deputies during the illegal gun sales sting, died from his wound.

The shooting sparked outrage and multiple investigations, not just for the accidental shooting, but to answer questions as to why an elderly volunteer would be participating in an undercover law enforcement operation.

Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz resigned after a 2009 memo questioned Bates' qualifications to be a volunteer deputy, and amid reports that the insurance executive had donated vehicles and thousands of dollars to the department.

In an interview with with Today, Bates apologized to Harris' family, saying he "had no desire to take anyone's life."

Bates' attorneys argued the death was an "excusable homicide," according to the AP, and that methamphetamine found in Harris' body was a contributing factor.

Prosecutors, however, argued that Bates was culpable of negligence. One deputy testified that the Bates had fallen asleep during the sting, just minutes before the shooting.

KOKI reported the jury deliberated for three hours before agreeing on the guilty verdict.

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Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Salvador Hernandez at salvador.hernandez@buzzfeed.com.

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