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2015 shooting of Eric Harris

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2015 shooting of Eric Harris
DateApril 2, 2015 (2015-04-02)
Time11:00 a.m. CST (17:00 UTC)
LocationTulsa, Oklahoma, United States
Deaths1 (Eric Courtney Harris)
Suspects1 (Robert Charles Bates)
ChargesSecond-degree manslaughter

The 2015 shooting of Eric Harris occurred on April 2, 2015, when 44-year-old African-American Eric Courtney Harris was fatally shot during an undercover sting in Tulsa, Oklahoma,[1] as Harris ran from authorities unarmed.[2][3][4] While Harris was being subdued, Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Robert Charles "Bob" Bates, 73, allegedly confused his personal weapon, a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver, for a Model X26 Taser.[5] 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."[6] 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[7] shows his arms flailing as he runs. Bates was later charged with second-degree manslaughter.[8]

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 [ever] get these two weapons confused," Smolen said.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

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."[12]

Bates' qualification scandal[edit]

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."[13][14] Later that week, The Tulsa World reported supervisors at the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office were ordered to falsify Deputy Bates' training records.[6]

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.[15]

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,[16] while the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office denied providing Bates with the training he claimed.[17]

Chief Glanz resigned as a result of the scandal around Bates' lack of qualification. In 2016 he pled guilty for failing to release information that showed the department knew Bates to be unqualified. He was sentenced to one year in jail, and the sentence was suspended.[18]

Legal proceedings[edit]

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.[19] Bates pleaded not guilty on April 21.

On 28 April 2016, Bates was found guilty of manslaughter.[20] Based on the jury's recommendation, he was sentenced to four years in prison.[21] Bates was released from prison on 19 October 2017 after serving 37% of his sentence, including jail time.[22]

In January 2018, Bob Bates was photographed apparently drinking alcohol at a bar in contravention of the conditions of his parole from prison. His bar receipt was also photographed. [23]

In March 2018, Tulsa County agreed to pay the family of Eric Harris six million dollars as a final settlement of a federal lawsuit.[24]


  1. ^ "Another city, another unarmed black man". Archived from the original on June 22, 2015. Retrieved June 22, 2015.
  2. ^ Pérez-Peña, Richard (April 14, 2015). "Lawyers Square Off in Tulsa as Reserve Deputy Surrenders in Unarmed Man's Death". The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
  3. ^ Bankoff, Caroline & Fuller, Jaime (April 13, 2015). "Video: 'F*ck Your Breath,' Says Cop to Man Who Has Just Been Fatally Shot". New York. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
  4. ^ Pierce, Charles P. (April 13, 2015). "You Can't Tell The Cops From The Cops Any More". Esquire. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b "Sources: Supervisors told to falsify reserve deputy's training records; department announces internal review - Tulsa World: Homepage1". Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  7. ^ "*GRAPHIC LANGUAGE* Raw Video: Tulsa County officers chase Eric Courtney Harris". Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  8. ^ "Reserve deputy charged with manslaughter turns himself in at Tulsa Jail - Tulsa World: Crimewatch". Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  9. ^ "Tulsa Reserve Sheriff's Deputy Turns Himself In To Face Manslaughter Charges". April 14, 2015. Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  10. ^ "Sheriff's Office confirms names of deputies in video, says they didn't hear gunshot - Tulsa World: Local". Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  11. ^ "Video of fatal shooting by reserve deputy shown at Sheriff's Office press conference - Tulsa World: Crimewatch". Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  12. ^ "Tulsa reserve deputy charged with manslaughter". USA Today. April 13, 2015. Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  13. ^ "Attorney questions official report in fatal shooting by Tulsa County reserve deputy - Tulsa World: Newshomepage2". Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  14. ^ "TPD responds to rumors on deputy involved in shooting". April 13, 2015. Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  15. ^ "Sheriff's spokesman: Parts of reserve deputy's training requirements might have been waived - Tulsa World: Crimewatch". Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  16. ^ "Serious Questions Raised in Taser/Gun Mixup Fatal Shooting -". April 15, 2015. Archived from the original on April 19, 2015. Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  17. ^ "MCSO: We didn't train Tulsa deputy accused in murder". The Arizona Republic. April 16, 2015. Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  18. ^ Drinking while on parole? Ex-reserve deputy Robert Bates seen at bar after release from prison for Eric Harris slaying, Tulsa World, 10 May 2018
  19. ^ Reed, Allen. Tulsa Reserve Deputy Released on Bail[permanent dead link], The Huffington Post, April 15, 2015.
  20. ^ Ellis, Ralph; Lett, Sara (April 28, 2016). "Ex-Oklahoma deputy Robert Bates guilty of killing unarmed suspect". CNN. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  21. ^ Pickard, Arianna; Jones, Corey (June 1, 2016). "Former Reserve Deputy Robert Bates sentenced to four years in prison for death of Eric Harris". Tulsa World. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  22. ^ Robert Bates released from prison after serving 1½ years of a four-year sentence for killing Eric Harris, Jones, Corey, Tulsa World 20 October 2017
  23. ^ Drinking while on parole? Ex-reserve deputy Robert Bates seen at bar after release from prison for Eric Harris slaying, Tulsa World, 10 May 2018
  24. ^ Tulsa County paying $6M to estate of slain black man, KFOR TV/Associated Press 9 March 2018