Prosecutors in Oklahoma are reviewing a 73-year-old reserve sheriff’s deputy’s fatal shooting of a suspect after the officer said he mistook his handgun for a stun-gun.
On April 2, in an incident that the Sheriff’s Office calls an ‘accident,’ Robert Bates, a reserve deputy with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, shot and killed Eric Harris.
“Initial reports have determined that the reserve deputy was attempting to use less lethal force, believing that he was utilizing a Taser, when he inadvertently discharged his service weapon, firing one round which struck Harris,” the sheriff’s office said in a press release after the incident.
Harris, 45, was the subject of an undercover operation, according to police. He had allegedly sold meth to undercover investigators and told them that he had access to guns. Harris allegedly met an undercover investigator in a parking lot to sell him a firearm on the day of the shooting, police said.
Video released Friday by the sheriff’s office shows Harris get into a car and pull a gun out of his backpack. Less than a minute later, a car can be seen pulling up. When deputies get out of the vehicle, Harris makes a run for it.
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A second video shows officers pursuing the suspect and then appearing to struggle to subdue him.
After a single gunshot, someone says, “I shot him! I’m sorry.”
The words were spoken by Bates just after he shot his weapon when he realized that he hadn’t shot his Taser, according to the sheriff’s office.
“He got out of the car with weapons in both hands,” Tulsa Sheriff’s Capt. Billy McKelvey said. “He thought in his mind that he had transitioned from his pistol to his Taser.”
The sheriff’s office said the investigation is under review by the Tulsa County District Attorney.
Harris’ family has reviewed “the heavily edited version of video released by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office” and has “many concerns and unanswered questions” according to a statement released today by the family’s attorney, Daniel Smolen.
The family said they are “saddened, shocked, confused and disturbed” by the TCSO’s version of the incident and the findings from its internal investigation.”
The family called for a “truly independent investigation” by a “third party with no connections to TCSO,” they said.