Funeral services Sunday for Walter Scott, the Black man shot and killed in North Charleston, S.C., had only recently concluded when a police video was released showing an unarmed Black man fleeing the police when he was subsequently tackled, forced to the pavement then shot and killed.
“Oh, I shot him … I’m sorry,” said Robert Bates, a 73-year-old Tulsa County reserve deputy. He said he thought he was holding his stun gun when he shot Eric Harris, 44, in this April 2 encounter. Harris was being pursued after allegedly trying to sell a gun to an undercover policeman.
The video shows a portion of the chase. Harris, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, is seen zigging and zagging from the sidewalk to the street with the officer in pursuit. There is a break in the action and in the next video clips, Harris is on the pavement with an officer’s knee on his head, pressing it down to the concrete.
According to the Associated Press story, the video was released over the weekend at the request of Harris’ family.
“I need you to roll on your stomach,” an officer is heard commanding Harris. In the background, a woman is heard pleading with Harris to “stop fighting.”
Harris, in obvious pain, cried out, “He shot me. Oh my God.”
“You f—ing ran,” a deputy blurts out. “Shut the f—k up!”
When Harris calls out that he is losing breath, much in the manner of Eric Garner when he was choked to death on Staten Island last summer, a deputy replies, “F—k your breath.”
After being treated by medics, Harris was then taken to the hospital where he died.
“Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of all of this is the inhumane and malicious treatment of Eric after he was shot,” the Harris family said in a statement. The incident featured elements of three other recent deaths by the police—Harris’ cry about not being able to breathe was similar to Garner’s plea; his fleeing from the police resembled what happened to Scott; and the absolute disregard for his injuries brought to mind what happened to Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
Monday, the district attorney’s office charged Bates with second-degree manslaughter.
Attempts to reach attorney Dan Smolen, whose firm represents the Harris family, was not possible because he was headed for a press conference, which was streamed from Fox23.com in Tulsa, Okla. Smolen was joined by another attorney and Andre Harris, Eric’s brother.
There were two basic points they wanted to make. First, Smolen said the media had confused the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office with the Tulsa Police Department. “They are separate entities,” Smolen said, and the principal agency involved in the case is the Sheriff’s Office. It was falsely reported, Smolen added, that the Harris family had made no contact and asked no questions of the Sheriff’s Office.
“They asked me if I had hired a lawyer,” Harris said, “and if I had it would slow things down. They said they made a mistake and they wanted to make it right. So they are wrong that no one came forward to ask questions.
“My brother was a nonviolent person. And no one came to his aid after he had been shot. You could see the blood running out the side of his body. If I had been there, I would have helped him, but they probably would have killed me, too.”
Smolen also presented the Magnum revolver that Bates used to kill Harris. He compared it with the stun gun. “Look at these two weapons,” Smolen said. “There’s no way they could have been mistaken. The stun gun has to be engaged from the side.” Moreover, Smolen said, when Bates had the revolver in his hand, the stun gun was strapped to his chest. The police had shown the public the wrong stun gun, not the one Bates possessed, Smolen explained.
Bates apparently was in shock after the shooting, claiming he was a victim of a “slip and capture,” in which a person under stress reacts irrationally. “That tactic was used in the Fruitvale tragedy in Oakland [with the Oscar Grant murder] and it was unsuccessful,” Smolen told reporters.
Smolen said that later in the week his office will be presented with more videos from the incident. He said that the autopsy should prove that Harris did not have any PCP in his body, as the police claimed he told them when he was apprehended.
“We will do our due diligence and investigate this matter further,” Smolen said. “We will show what a corrupt County Sheriff’s Office does after a bad shooting.”