OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A teenager who saw an Oklahoma police captain fatally shoot his unarmed friend testified Wednesday that the 18-year-old raised his hands in an apparent attempt to surrender before he was shot, though other witnesses said they didn't see that.
John Lockett, 17, testified for a second day at the trial of Del City police Capt. Randy Harrison, 48, who is charged with first-degree manslaughter in the March 14, 2012, death of Dane Scott Jr. Harrison, a 23-year veteran officer in an Oklahoma City suburb, has pleaded not guilty. He faces four years to life in prison if convicted.
Harrison had previously arrested Scott on drug violations, and prosecutors say that the officer became so fixated on the teen that he finally crossed the line, shooting Scott in the back at a time when he posed no threat to anyone. But the defense has portrayed Scott as a drug dealer whose actions before the shooting — he had gotten into a scuffle with Harrison after a car chase — meant the use of deadly force was justified.
Harrison's attorney said early on that prosecutors were influenced to file charges to prevent the type of racial discord that followed high-profile shootings in Florida and Tulsa last year. Scott was black; Harrison is white. However, prosecutors haven't said that racial bias was an issue in Scott's death, just that Harrison was wrong to shoot him.
In testimony Wednesday, Lockett said Scott was running from Harrison when the officer opened fire. "He had his hands up like this," Lockett said, holding his hands up over his head. "He put his hands up like he surrendered."
Prosecutors say Harrison fired four bullets, one of which went through both of Scott's lungs and pierced his aorta.
But other witnesses said they didn't recall seeing Scott attempt to give himself up.
"All he was doing was trying to get away," said Kenneth Hodge, who saw the fatal shooting from a nearby business.
Harrison had tried to pull over a car Scott was driving when the teen led Harrison on a high-speed chase before crashing into a tractor-trailer. After the collision, Scott and Harrison scuffled on the ground before Scott wriggled free, Lockett said. Authorities have said that during that scuffle, Harrison took a handgun from Scott. They say the teen was not armed when he was shot.
The killing occurred just a few weeks after the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager shot dead by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida. The charges against Harrison were filed just after two white men were accused of fatally shooting three black people in Tulsa in what prosecutors said were racially motivated attacks.
Another witness, Eric Thomason, 48, of Oklahoma City, testified that Harrison appeared to be fighting for his life as he struggled to disarm Scott, but that the teen did not appear to be a threat to anyone when the shooting happened.
Thomason, who was with a co-worker in a pickup truck that pulled up to an intersection where the struggle was taking place, said that when the two were wrestling on the ground, he thought Scott was trying to shoot the officer. "I was looking down the barrel of the gun they were fighting over," he said.
But Harrison was able to knock the handgun from Scott's hand before Scott broke free, Thomason said. Thomason said he got out of the truck and tried to grab Scott as he ran by. Scott slipped his grasp and attempted to climb over a fence before he was shot and fell to the ground, Thomason said.
Thomason said he was frightened by the gunfire.
"The gun was being pointed in my direction," Thomason said. "I felt like I was in the line of fire."
Maj. Steve Robinson of the Del City Police Department said he fired his stun gun as Scott approached him and did not see anything in his hands.
District Attorney David Prater asked Robinson if it was professional for an officer to fire at a suspect who was so close to another officer.
"It wouldn't be a good idea. It's not safe," Robinson said.