Oklahoma reserve sheriff’s deputy Robert Charles Bates, 73, was charged with second-degree manslaughter for the shooting death of Eric Harris, an unarmed black man, the local district attorney said.
The charges against deputy Bates came hours after the family of the dead man, Eric Courtney Harris, accused the deputies of treating him inhumanely after he was shot at the conclusion of an April 2 foot chase stemming from a sting operation in which Harris had allegedly arranged to sell a gun to undercover officers from the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office Violent Crimes Task Force.
NBC News reported that the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office defended Bates last week, saying he committed no crime. Tulsa Police Sgt. Jim Clarke, who reviewed the incident for the sheriff’s office, called the shooting an accident attributable to a faulty response to stressful situations called “slip and capture.”
They then turned the investigation over to Tulsa County District Attorney Stephen Kunzweiler, who on Monday announced the second-degree manslaughter charges.
Underpinning the charge is a finding of what he called in a statement “culpable negligence,” which Kunzweiler defined as “the omission to do something which a reasonably careful person would do, or the lack of the usual ordinary care and caution in the performance of an act usually and ordinarily exercised by a person under similar circumstances and conditions.”
Harris’ family accused Clarke and the sheriff’s department of seeking to protect Bates, who, according to the Tulsa World newspaper was a chairman of Sheriff Stanley Glanz’s 2012 re-election campaign, to which he donated $2,500.
The video, the officer’s body camera at the scene, starts just before Eric Harris was fatally shot and killed during an incident on April 2, 2015.
Police had chased Harris on foot after he allegedly fled arrest for selling a 9mm semiautomatic pistol and ammunition to undercover cops.
“I shot him, I’m sorry,” deputy Robert Charles Bates says in the recording after a single shot rings out.
Once they catch up to Harris, they tackle him to the ground and order him to lie on his stomach. Robert Bates then yells, ‘Taser! Taser!‘ but accidentally takes out his gun and pulls the trigger.
After shooting Harris, the deputy Bates drops his gun from the recoil and says in shock: ‘Oh, I shot him! I’m sorry.’ Harris then starts yelling, and pleading for help.
“He shot me!” Harris yells, “He shot me, man.” and “Oh my God,” he continued, “I’m losing my breath.”
They forcibly detain him with a knee, and full body weight on Harris’ head, ignoring his cries.
“F–k your breath,” one officer says while holding Harris down with his knee on Harris’ neck, and then “Shut the f–k up.”
Harris was pronounced dead an hour after he was shot. The recording shows there was no medical aid performed by police officers on the scene.
Bates, 73, on the left, accidentally grabbed his pistol instead of the taser, and shot Harris (on the right, shown in a previous mug shot) who, died shortly after the incident.