April 13, 2015
(WTFNEWS) The frequency of controversial police shootings seems to have increased and this time the circumstances are even more shocking.
Days after a South Carolina police officer was caught on video shooting Walter Scott in the back, an Oklahoma deputy shot a man already pinned to the ground.
Eric Courtney Harris was “accidentally” shot by a 73-old Robert Bates, a Tulsa County reserve deputy who is heard saying “Oh I shot him, I’m sorry”, as he is running up to the officer with the body camera. Reports say the deputy claims he meant to use his Taser but pulled his firearm. Harris was running from police for allegedly selling an illegal gun to undercover officers.
Harris had already surrendered, saying “alright” as he got on the ground and was restrained, shown by the officer’s body cam. After being shot, his head was pressed to the ground by a deputy’s knee while also being sat on by the officer with the body camera.
The video is not graphic but is unsettling as Harris yells in pain while 3 deputies hold him down. At one point he says “I’m losing my breath” and one deputy replies “F–k your breath” before the video cuts off. Harris later died at the hospital.
The explanation by officials according to CNN is unbelievable.
The reserve deputy who shot a suspect with his firearm rather than his stun gun, and another deputy who can be heard cursing at the suspect after he was shot, were not in their normal states of mind because of the elevated stress of apprehending the suspect, according to a Tulsa, Oklahoma, investigator.
Tulsa Police Sgt. Jim Clark, who has been brought in to review the case, said Tulsa County Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, 73, “inadvertently” shot Eric Courtney Harris after Harris — a possibly PCP-addled felon who had days prior sold methamphetamine to an undercover officer — ran from authorities after trying to sell an illegal handgun during an undercover sting.
As deputies tried to handcuff Harris, Bates arrived with a pepper spray gun in hand. He warned his fellow deputies he was going to use a Taser on the suspect, but instead, he fired a single gunshot — and immediately apologized, Clark said, citing a recently released video.
Clark attributed Bates’ actions to a phenomenon known as “slip and capture.” An example is when someone who drives a car with a manual transmission gets behind the wheel of a car with an automatic transmission. The driver will press her or his left foot down when stopping abruptly, even though there’s no clutch pedal, he said.
Quoting Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute, Clark further explained: “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. In effect, your intended behavior slips off the path that you want it to go because it is captured by a stronger response and sent to a different direction.”
Bates announced that he was going to deploy his Taser, and he pulled the trigger only once, as he was trained to do, Clark said. Police are trained to “double-tap” when firing their handguns, he said. The gun jumped out of Bates’ hand because he wasn’t expecting recoil, Clark said, and Bates expressed surprise and remorse that he had shot Harris.
Quoting Lewinski again, Clark said, “This is the slip and capture. Under time pressure to address a perceived threat, his intention to draw his Taser slipped off his agenda, so to speak, when it was captured and completed by a more well-rehearsed motor program. … He was not conscious of this unfortunate switch until after the shot was fired. In his urgency, his concentration was focused exclusively on Harris’ back, where he intended to place the Taser darts. Because of what’s called ‘inattentional blindness,’ meaning that he wasn’t consciously paying attention to and registering it, he wouldn’t have been aware that the feel of the gun was different from that of the Taser. And in this case the weight of the gun and Taser are nearly identical.”
Clark was emphatic that Bates had done nothing criminally wrong and went so far as to say the reserve deputy was a victim.
“Reserve Deputy Bates did not commit a crime. Reserve Deputy Bates was a victim, a true victim of slip and capture,” he said. “There’s no other determination I could come to.”
This article originally appeared on WTF News and was used with permission.