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Oklahoma Man Eric Harris Fatally Shot by Deputy Who Meant to Fire Taser

Harris, 44, was shot on April 2, when he was being arrested as part of an undercover gun-selling sting, Tulsa authorities said.
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/ Source: NBC News

Oklahoma prosecutors are reviewing the shooting of an unarmed black man by a sheriff's deputy who says he was unintentionally struck with a gun instead of Tasered during the fatal takedown.

Video released Friday shows the dramatic April 2 arrest of Tulsa man Eric Harris, 44, and the moment Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, 73, shoots him.

"Taser! Taser!" Bates is heard shouting, before firing a single round from his regular gun, hitting Harris, who was pinned to the ground by officers.

Bates quickly realized his mistake: "I shot him! I'm sorry!"

As Harris squirms on the ground he screams, “He shot me! He shot me, man. Oh, my God. I’m losing my breath,” he said.

Harris was taken to the hospital, where he died about an hour later.

The incident has gained national attention following the video's release and an awareness over fatal police shooting's involving unarmed black men. The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office defended Bates' error and said he "did not commit a crime," reported NBC affiliate KJRH.

Jim Clark, who is reviewing the case "independently" for the sheriff's department claimed Bates suffered from a phenomenon sometimes called "slip and capture" — in which people unintentionally do the opposite of what they meant to during extreme duress.

The case has been turned over to the Tulsa County district attorney and autopsy results are pending, Tulsa County Sheriff's Maj. Shannon Clark said at a news conference Friday.

Bates, a reserve deputy with the Tulsa County Violent Crimes Task Force, had a pepperball gun in one hand and meant to grab for his Taser with the other hand, but pulled his firearm instead, authorities said.

Bates was not originally supposed to be on the arrest team that day, but was "thrust in to the situation," authorities added.

The video first shows Harris being recorded by a sting operation in which he was allegedly trying to sell a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and ammunition to an undercover sheriff's task force. But Harris bolted from the car the moment he was about to be arrested, Maj. Clark said.

Harris also has prior convictions for assault and battery on an officer and two other felony arrests, as well as multiple robbery and stolen property charges, KJRH reported.

Maj. Clark said Harris was possibly under the influence of Phencyclidine, PCP, when he was admitted to the hospital. Authorities also said they believed he may have been armed at the time because of the way he was holding his arms near his waistline, although he was arrested without any weapons.

Harris' brother said he was on his way to pick him up the morning he was killed so that they could go to work together. Andre Harris told KJRH that he drove by the scene of the shooting and only realized later it involved his brother when he asked what race the victim was.

"For them to say he was wilding on PCP and fighting, it's not true," Andre Harris said. "And if it is true, they should have tased him."

Image: Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, left, was involved in the shooting of suspect Eric Harris, right, after mistaking his service weapon for a stun gun
Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, left, was involved in the shooting of suspect Eric Harris, right, after mistaking his service weapon for a stun gun, accidentally killing him, during an arrest Thursday, according to the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office.Tulsa Sheriff's Office via Reuters



— Erik Ortiz