A 73-year-old volunteer Oklahoma deputy who has donated thousands of dollars of items to the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office over the years was allowed to participate in a high-profile sting operation where he ended up killing a man by accident.
Reserve deputy Robert Bates said he only meant to tase Eric Harris instead of shooting him to death.
Bates can be heard apologizing for shooting the suspect before dropping the gun in a body cam video that is going viral.
The shooting took place April 2, even though the date on the body cam footage reads 2008.
Harris, who had led deputies on a pursuit after he attempted to sell a gun and ammo to an undercover cop, is seen on the ground with a deputy’s knee on his head.
“He shot me! He shot me, man. Oh, my god. I’m losing my breath,” Harris says.
“Fuck your breath,” a deputy responds. “Shut the fuck up!”
“I shot him. I’m sorry,” Bates can be heard saying.
Harris, a 44-year-old ex-convict, was pronounced dead shortly after at a local hospital.
Bates, a wealthy insurance executive, has been a reserve deputy with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office since 2008.
While he was apologetic about shooting Harris, Tulsa police defended his actions, claiming that Harris had “refused to pull his left arm from underneath his body where his hand was near his waistband,” even though that would be difficult to do with several deputies on top of you.
Meanwhile,, Tulsa authorities are chalking this fatal accident up to a scientific phenomenon known as ‘slips-and-capture,’ a theory invented by use of force psychologist Dr. Bill Lewinski, who has testified on behalf of other officers who pulled a deadly trigger. Lewinski was contacted by the Tulsa Sheriff’s Office for this case and confirmed that Bates was in fact a victim of his slips-and-capture theory. Lewinski also attributed this phenomenon to the shooting death of Oscar Grant at the hands of Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle in 2009.
“These are mistakes that are made when you think you are doing one thing but you actually are doing another and the result often is directly opposite of what you intended,” Lewinski says. “In effect, your intended behavior ‘slips off’ the path you wanted it to go because it is ‘captured’ by a stronger response and sent in a different direction.
Tulsa Police Sergeant Jim Clark, the private consultant hired to lead the internal investigation, explained in a press conference Friday that Bates was not meant to be part of the arrest team, but under the chaotic circumstances, was thrust into the position after Harris eluded arrest on foot and fought with officers as they attempted to restrain him.
Once Bates saw the struggle, he exited his vehicle with his ‘less lethal’ pepper ball gun, and ran towards the deputies to render aid. As Bates arrived at the scene, he can be heard yelling “Taser Taser” as if he was about to discharge electrodes into Harris to incapacitate him, but instead accidentally pulls a .38 special revolver from his holster and fires one shot in Harris’ shoulder that would prove to be fatal.
Questions still remain as to why Bates was carrying a revolver when he was issued a Glock 45 by the Sheriff’s department and whether or not Bates was qualified with his .38 special. The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office is now handling the investigation.
Last week, TulsaWorld.com reported that Bates is a very good friend of the sheriff’s office. In other words, Bates donated more than just his time. His donations came in the form of multiple vehicles, guns, stun guns, and possibly some high tech ‘sunglass cameras’. Apparently Bates didn’t get enough excitement from selling insurance, so he wanted to play GI Joe on the streets of Tulsa.
And the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office couldn’t get enough of his donations, so they allowed him to play with the big boys.