Police video shows killing of black Oklahoma suspect
A reserve sheriff's deputy mistakenly shot the suspect when he thought he held a Taser in his hand.
Tulsa, Okla. — A man can be heard apologizing and admitting to shooting a person in a video that documents the killing of a black suspect by a white reserve sheriff's deputy.
Police have said that 73-year-old Tulsa County reserve deputy Robert Bates thought he was holding a stun gun, not his handgun, when he fired at 44-year-old Eric Harris in the April 2 incident.
The video, shot by deputies with sunglass cameras and released Friday at the request of the victim's family, shows a deputy chase and tackle Harris, whom they said tried to sell an illegal gun to an undercover officer. A deputy is heard telling Harris, "I need you to roll on your stomach." A woman can be heard saying, "Stop fighting."
As the deputy subdues Harris on the ground, a gunshot rings out and a man says: "Oh, I shot him. I'm sorry."
Harris screams: "He shot me. Oh, my God," and a deputy replies: "You f---ing ran. Shut the f--- up."
When Harris says he's losing his breath, a deputy replies, "F--- your breath."
Harris was treated by medics at the scene and died in a Tulsa hospital.
Tulsa County sheriff's officials said Bates believed he was holding a Taser and intended only to incapacitate Harris when the fatal shot was fired.
The family said in a statement that it was "saddened, shocked, confused and disturbed."
"Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of all of this is the inhumane and malicious treatment of Eric after he was shot," the family wrote. "These deputies treated Eric as less than human. They treated Eric as if his life had no value."
An attorney for Harris' family, Dan Smolen, did not return a telephone call Sunday seeking comment. A lawyer for Bates could not be found.
Reserve deputies are generally volunteers, often with other full-time jobs. Bates is an insurance company executive assigned to a violent crimes task force.
The sheriff's office told the Tulsa World that it has more than 100 reserve deputies, who "have full powers and authority" of a deputy while on duty, and that it's not unusual for them to be on an assignment with units such as the task force.
Tulsa Police Sgt. Jim Clark, who investigated the shooting as an independent consultant at the request of the sheriff's office, concluded that Bates had been so engrossed in the stress of the moment that he did not think clearly about what he had in his hand.
The results of the investigation have been turned over to prosecutors, who will decide whether to file criminal charges.