A white, reserve sheriff's deputy was charged Monday in Oklahoma with manslaughter in the death of an unarmed black suspect whose shooting while on the ground at officer's feet was captured on videotape.
Second-degree manslaughter charges were filed against reserve deputy Robert Charles "Bob" Bates, 73, in the shooting death of Eric Courtney Harris, 44, District Attorney Stephen Kunzweiler's office in Tulsa said.
"Mr. Bates is charged with Second-Degree Manslaughter involving culpable negligence. Oklahoma law defines culpable negligence as 'the omission to do something which a reasonably careful person would do, or the lack of the usual ordinary care and caution in the performance of an act usually and ordinarily exercised by a person under similar circumstances and conditions,'" Kunzweiler said in a statement.
The release of the dramatic video has fueled controversy surrounding the shooting of an unarmed suspect who was already on the ground. It follows a public outcry over a series of cases around the country in which unarmed black men died at the hands of police in places including Ferguson, Mo., North Charleston, S.C., and New York City.
Bates has been a reserve deputy since 2008 and was assigned to the sheriff's Violent Crimes Task Force, the district attorney said.
Earlier in the day, Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz described Bates as a longtime friend who made "an error" last week when he fatally shot an unarmed man trying to flee deputies during an undercover operation to retrieve stolen guns, the
Tulsa Worldreported. The newspaper said Bates had donated thousands of dollars in equipment to the sheriff's department since signing on in 2008 as an unpaid reserve deputy.
"He made an error," Glanz said. "How many errors are made in an operating room every week?"
Bates says he meant to shoot the suspect with a stun gun during the confrontation April 2 but accidentally drew and fired his .38-caliber handgun.
The video shows Harris running away from officers pursuing him on foot. Harris is caught and put to the ground, where a struggle ensues.
Bates arrives at the scene and a single gunshot is heard, then, "Oh, I'm sorry. I shot him." Harris is heard screaming "He shot me. Oh my God!" adding that he is having trouble breathing. A deputy responds "(Expletive) your breath."
Sheriff's Maj. Shannon Clark told the World that Bates donates his time and is a highly regarded member of the Reserve Deputy Program. He has also donated multiple vehicles, guns and stun guns, Clark said.
"There are lots of wealthy people in the reserve program," he said. "Many of them make donations of items. That's not unusual at all."
The department website says "dedicated reserve deputies work full time jobs in the community and volunteer their time in a myriad of events such as the Special Olympics and Tulsa State Fair."