Reuters – Oklahoma prosecutors charged a sheriff's reserve deputy with second-degree manslaughter on Monday in the fatal shooting of a black man this month in Tulsa, the most recent in a series of U.S. cases that have raised questions about race relations and policing.
Reserve deputy Robert Bates, 73 and white, fatally shot Eric Harris, 44, an African-American, on April 2. Bates thought he was using a Taser instead of his gun, the Tulsa Sheriff's office said of the incident seen in a video released over the weekend.
No attorney for Bates was listed on the charge sheet. Legal experts said second-degree manslaughter in Oklahoma can bring between two and four years in prison.
In the video, a man Oklahoma authorities identified as Bates is heard saying, "Oh, I shot him. I'm sorry."
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.
Last week, a white South Carolina officer was arrested and charged with murder after a video showed him fatally shooting an unarmed black man in the back.
The shooting was reminiscent of other police killings over the past year in cities including New York; Ferguson, Missouri; and Cleveland, Ohio, rekindling national outrage over excessive use of police force against black men.
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