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Tulsa authorities released a deputy’s body camera video showing the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man during an arrest attempt. The video indicates that Dep. Bob Bates made a mistake in pulling out his gun, when he was reaching for his stun gun.
The footage of the deadly April 2 Oklahoma incident, was released by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office. Bates, 73, indicated to other officers he was going to stun Harris after he tried to flee. Harris was the subject of an undercover investigation into illegal gun sales, according to the sheriff’s department.
The video shows Harris running in the direction of the deputy, who gives chase and yells “Taser! Taser!” Then a gunshot is heard and Bates yells that he shot him, and immediately said he was sorry.
More of the video shows Harris yelling, as he is being arrested by several deputies. The man states he has been shot and that he is losing his breath. Deputies curse at him and tell him he should not have attempted to flee. Harris died after being taken to a local hospital.
The sheriff’s office said Bates did not do anything intentionally wrong, but the victim’s brother, Andre Harris, does not believe them. Andre Harris said there is no way someone could mistake a stun gun, for a police firearm.
The department brought in an independent law enforcement officer, Tulsa Police Sgt. Jim Clark to review the case. Clark said Bates inadvertently shot Harris. He said the victim could have been on a drug called phencyclidine, commonly called PCP, which causes people to be violent and erratic. Clark also said Harris sold methamphetamine to an undercover offices just a few days before the fatal shooting.
Clark said this type of accident can happen when an officer is under intense pressure in a threatening situation. He said the weight of the stun gun, and the officer’s weapon are almost the same, so the officer would not realize his mistake until after Harris was shot.
The cursing language of the officers is also not unusual in such a stressful situation, according to Clark. The officer using the language thought Harris was breathless from running, and was not aware he was shot. The officer’s language has nothing to do with the shooting itself, he said.
Clark answered questions regarding Bates’ age and if it played a role. Clark said the same type of situation happened to younger officers too and that age is not a factor. Officials put Bates on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Tulsa law enforcement said they wanted to handle this situation carefully, and make the public aware of all the information. That is why Tulsa authorities released the deputy’s body camera video of the incident. This incident follows several other high profile police-involved fatal shootings across the country, including one in Ferguson, MO., which resulted in riots, looting and unrest in that city. Another incident involving South Carolina resident, Walter Scott, occurred last week. Scott was shot in the back, as he tried to flee an officer who made a routine traffic stop. That officer was charged with murder after the video shot by a witness was released.
By Melody Dareing
Photo by Dmitriy – Flickr license