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Volunteer Deputy Gets 4 Years In Prison For Killing Unarmed Suspect

A Tulsa, Oklahoma, judge handed down the maximum sentence to a former volunteer deputy who said he reached for a taser, but instead fired his gun, killing an unarmed black suspect.

Posted on May 31, 2016, at 7:55 p.m. ET

Sue Ogrocki / AP

A former volunteer deputy in Oklahoma was sentenced to four years in prison Tuesday for fatally shooting an unarmed black man after mistakenly grabbing his gun instead of his taser.

The fatal shooting on April 2, 2015, was captured on body camera footage as Bates ran to help authorities apprehend an unarmed suspect trying to flee deputies during an illegal gun sales sting.

The suspect, Eric Harris, died from his injury.

The prison sentence handed down to 74-year-old Robert Bates was the maximum punishment for the former wealthy insurance executive who was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, the Tulsa World reported. It was also recommended by the jury.

Bates' attorney told reporters he planned to appeal the sentence.

Bates attorney plans to appeal sentencing. @KTULNews

Several of Bates' friends, family, and acquaintances had asked the judge for leniency ahead of Tuesday's hearing, including a former sheriff who resigned after the fatal shooting, calling it a "terrible mistake."

Former Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz, who called the incident "a terrible injustice for a man that made a terrible mistake," resigned after he was questioned over why he authorized an elderly volunteer to participate in undercover stings. A memo had also questioned Bates' field qualifications.

Bates had donated thousands of dollars and vehicles to the department.

According to court documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News, one of the jurors also asked that Bates get probation, telling the judge: "I regret that I didn't speak up because in my mind and heart I truly do not believe Mr. Bates is guilty."

Bates' doctor also submitted a letter to the court stating his concern about his client's age and "cardiovascular and medical issues," and the ability of the prison system to adequately address them.

Bates is expected to get credit for time already served behind bars.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.