A week ago an unarmed black man, Eric Courtney Harris, was killed by a reserve deputy police officer who accidentally shot Eric whilst trying to tase him.
After being shot to the ground, officers then pinned Eric to the pavement whilst he cried, “he shot me! He shot me, man. Oh my God. I’m losing my breath.”
The officer responded, “f**k your breath!” and “Shut the f**k up!” “You shouldn’t have fu****g ran!”
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At a news conference following the release of the footage, Sheriff’s Captain Billy McKelvey told reporters that the heartless-sounding officers didn’t realize that Harris had been shot, even though Bates immediately pointed out what had happened. “He made an inadvertent mistake,” said McKelvey. Bates, a former Tulsa officer and current insurance salesman, has been placed on administrative leave.
Harris had been convicted in 2013 for assault of a law enforcement officer, according to the Los Angeles Times. He had several other felony convictions on his record.
On Monday, the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office announced that Bates has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. “Oklahoma law,” District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said in a statement, “defines culpable negligence 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.'”
Major Shannon Clark, a spokesperson at the Tulsa Sheriff’s Office, told ABC News that Bates “never intended in his 73 years of life to take a human life. No one intended for Mr. Harris to die that day.”
The Tulsa World reported on Monday that Bates — who was named Tulsa’s top reserve deputy in 2011 — had donated thousands of dollars’ worth of vehicles, guns, and stun guns since he became a reserve deputy seven years ago. “There are lots of wealthy people in the reserve program,” Clark told the newspaper. “Many of them make donations of items. That’s not unusual at all.”
Harris’s family released a statement on Sunday. “We do not believe it is reasonable for a 73-year-old insurance executive to be involved in a dangerous undercover sting operation. … We do not believe it is reasonable – or responsible – for [the Tulsa Sheriff’s Office] to accept gifts from a wealthy citizen who wants to be [a] ‘pay to play’ cop.”
There are 130 people on the city’s reserve deputy squad, many of whom regularly take part in undercover investigations like the one that resulted in Harris’s death and “are typically unpaid volunteers who work other full-time jobs.”
The Tulsa World wrote its editorial on Monday about the program, concluding that “the death of Harris gives pretty obvious evidence that the sheriff’s reserve program has gone beyond what the public ever would have imagined and is in need of a thorough, citizen-led, publicly conducted review.”
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