2015 shooting of Eric Harris
|Date||April 2, 2015|
|Time||11:00 a.m. CST (17:00 UTC)|
|Location||Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States|
|Deaths||1 (Eric Courtney Harris)|
|Suspect(s)||1 (Robert Charles Bates)|
The 2015 shooting of Eric Harris occurred on April 2, 2015, when 44-year-old Eric Courtney Harris was fatally shot during an undercover sting in Tulsa, Oklahoma as Harris ran from authorities unarmed. While Harris was being subdued, Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Robert Charles "Bob" Bates, 73, confused his personal weapon, a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver, for a Model X26 Taser. Bates shot Harris in the back when he was on the ground. According to the Tulsa County Sheriff's office, he immediately said afterwards, "Oh, I shot him! I'm sorry." Bates was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison.
It was later determined that Harris did not have a gun when he was tackled and shot. A sunglasses-camera video shows his arms flailing as he runs. Bates was later charged with second-degree manslaughter.
Harris family attorney Donald Smolen said the sunglasses video shows Deputy Bates with a yellow Taser strapped to his chest and a .357 revolver in his right hand as he stands over Harris. "There is absolutely no way, if Mr. Bates had been trained at all, which I believe will be reflected ultimately through the lack of records to substantiate his training, that an officer who was trained would never get these two weapons confused," Smolen said.
In the video, Harris can be heard saying, "I'm losing my breath," to which 38-year-old Deputy Joseph Byars replies, "Fuck your breath." 24-year-old Deputy Michael Huckeby is also shown in the video kneeling on Harris' head as the dying Harris is told, "You shouldn't have ran," and "Shut the fuck up." A third deputy restraining Harris was not identified.
Tulsa Police Sgt. Jim Clark, hired as an "expert witness" for the sheriff's department, said at an April 10 news conference that the deputy who fired the fatal shot "was a true victim of slips and capture", and that it was typical for law enforcement officers to experience diminished hearing, tunnel vision, or go into "auto pilot", where a person's behavior "slips" off the path of his intention because it is "captured" by a stronger response and sent in a different direction. "Bates didn't commit a crime," Clark said, and no policy violations occurred.
Smolen told the Tulsa World that Clark's ruling was "premature and ill-advised", challenging a report that Harris was "uncooperative and combative" as firefighters attempted to administer aid. Smolen said Harris could hardly be combative since he was struggling with labored breathing and his hands were cuffed. "It's most likely the word 'combative' is being used because that's what they're being told by the Sheriff's Office," Smolen told the Tulsa World. "The other alternative is their use of the word combative is more a description of Mr. Harris struggling to get air and kind of writhing in pain from the gunshot wound."
Allegations of records falsification
The Tulsa Police Department immediately sought to clarify their relationships with both Bates and Clark. "Robert Bates has no current affiliation with the Tulsa Police Department and has not had any in 50 years," TPD said in a press release. "Additionally, Mr. Jim Clark, a consultant for the Tulsa County Sheriff, does not represent the Tulsa Police Department nor has the Tulsa Police Department conducted an assessment of this incident." Later that week, The Tulsa World reported supervisors at the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office were ordered to falsify Deputy Bates' training records.
Sheriff's spokesman Shannon Clark later said the documents wouldn't matter because Bates, a major donor to Sheriff Glanz's re-election, was granted special exceptions.
The sheriff's deputy that certified Bates has moved on to work for the Secret Service, Sheriff Stanley Glanz said during an interview with a radio station, while the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office denied providing Bates with the training he claimed.
On April 14, 2015, Bates was charged with second-degree manslaughter. He turned himself in at the Tulsa County Jail, where he was released on the same day by posting $25,000 bail. The charge of second-degree manslaughter carried a maximum of four years in prison. Bates pleaded not guilty on April 21.
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- Ellis, Ralph; Lett, Sara (28 April 2016). "Ex-Oklahoma deputy Robert Bates guilty of killing unarmed suspect". CNN. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
- Pickard, Arianna; Jones, Corey (1 June 2016). "Former Reserve Deputy Robert Bates sentenced to four years in prison for death of Eric Harris". Tulsa World. Retrieved 23 Sep 2016.