Oklahoma prosecutors reviewing fatal shooting by reserve officer

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 13, 2015 12:40 PM

By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Prosecutors in Oklahoma are reviewing the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white sheriff's reserve deputy who said he thought he was using a Taser instead of his gun, officials said on Monday.

A video of the April 2 shooting in Tulsa was released over the weekend and comes in the wake of several high-profile U.S. cases where white officers have fatally shot black suspects - cases that are raising questions about the role of race in policing.

The Tulsa County Sheriff said reserve deputy Robert Bates, 73, fatally shot Eric Harris, 44. In the video, a man Oklahoma authorities identified as Bates is heard saying "Oh, I shot him. I'm sorry."

Tulsa prosecutors have not said if they are considering charges against Bates.

Police were pursuing Harris on suspicion of trying to sell a gun illegally to an undercover officer in a police sting. He fled the scene and was being chased

As a Tulsa County deputy subdues the suspect, a voice identified as Bates says, "Taser, Taser." A gunshot is then heard.

The suspect is heard screaming, "He shot me. Oh my God."

A deputy replies, telling Harris to shut up.

Harris, who said in the video he was having trouble breathing, later died at a Tulsa hospital.

The suspect's family requested the video, which was recorded during the arrest using sunglass cameras. After the incident, family members spoke out on social media.

“My brothers soul cryes (sic) out as he lays face down on the ground and shot to death," wrote the victim's brother, Andre Harris, on Facebook. “Is this the system we want?”

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department uses volunteer reserve deputies who have full powers and authorities. Bates works as an insurance executive and also worked on the Tulsa Sheriff’s Violent Crimes Task Force.

Bates was named Reserve Deputy of the Year in 2011, according to the Sheriff’s Office website.

(Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Lisa Lambret)