After brief move to Florida, convicted reserve deputy’s supervision again transferred to Tulsa County

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Former Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Robert Bates. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Last month, Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials confirmed Robert Bates’ post-imprisonment supervision had been transferred to Florida, where the former insurance executive and reserve deputy would be allowed to live.

Now he’s back.

Bates’ supervision was transferred back to Tulsa County, DOC spokesman Matt Elliott confirmed on Friday. Elliott said he couldn’t comment on why Bates’ supervision returned to Oklahoma, but did say Bates could not live out of state if his supervision was in Tulsa.

When Bates’ supervision was transferred to Florida in April, Elliott told the Tulsa World Bates would “be under post-incarceration supervision until July. Unless his supervision is transferred back to Oklahoma or somewhere else, that’s where he’ll be until his nine months of supervision ends.”

Bates served about 18 months in prison for killing Eric Harris in April 2015 during a botched illegal gun sting. Bates was sentenced to four years in prison following his trial in 2016.

It’s unclear what caused the reversal, though Bates does have a home in Vero Beach, Florida, meaning he could have returned to the state for vacation. Elliott said out-of-state supervision is a fairly routine process for an inmate that meets the requirements and asks for the transfer. His attorney, Clark Brewster, did not respond to requests for comment.

Court records show Bates listed an address in Vero Beach, Florida, on his “notification of release for payment of court costs” document, the last item listed in the criminal file against him.

After killing Harris, Bates spent some time at his Vero Beach home, intending to leave from there for a planned vacation in the Bahamas, a trip that was later canceled

Less than a month after the Harris shooting, a news outlet in Vero Beach wrote a story entitled “Tulsa deputy who shot man dreams of returning to Vero.”

“All I can think about – other than how sorry I am that I accidentally took another man’s life, which I would never intend to do – is how much it would help my wife Charlotte and me to be able to get away to Vero Beach and be free of the faces peering in our windows all hours of the day and night,” Bates told the newspaper, calling the shooting “the worst moment of my life.”

In that shooting, an undercover deputy on the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office’s drug task force was attempting to buy an illegal firearm from Harris when Harris noticed other undercover officers closing in and fled.

Two deputies tackled Harris not long after, and Bates — 73 years old at the time and a volunteer on the task force — arrived and shot the subdued Harris once under the right arm, killing him.

Bates told investigators four days after the shooting that he had intended to use his Taser on Harris, and video recording by a surveillance camera purchased by Bates for the task force recording him announcing “Taser! Taser!” as he arrived on the scene.

Bates went to trial about a year after the shooting, and was convicted after a six-day trial in which his defense argued that the shooting was not only excusable, it was not the cause of Harris’ death.

Brewster said in the trial that a medical expert’s report showed that Harris died of a drug-induced heart attack, rather than the bullet that pierced him under his right arm pit.

The four-year sentence recommended by Bates’ jury and upheld by a judge was the maximum allowable punishment in Oklahoma for second-degree manslaughter. It also made Bates one of only a handful of law enforcers around the nation convicted for a fatal on-duty shooting.

Additional reading

Beloved but haunted by mistakes, Bates and Harris share similarities

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Dylan Goforth

Editor in Chief/Staff Writer

Dylan is a news junkie and QuikTrip addict. He spends too much time on Twitter, but has launched what will be a failed attempt to cut back in 2018. Contact: dylan@readfrontier.com or 918-931-9405.
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