The Police Shooting of 44-Year-Old Eric Harris Just Took a Horrifying Turn
The police officer who shot an unarmed black man last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma should not have had a gun in the first place, according to a Tulsa World report published Thursday.
Supervisors at the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office were allegedly ordered to lie about the training and qualifications of 73-year-old Robert Bates, the reserve deputy who shot and killed Eric Harris by mistake while intending to fire his Taser, according to Gawker, citing a report from Tulsa World.
Multiple sources told Tulsa World, on condition of anonymity, that at least three of Bates' training supervisors were transferred after the shooting, because they refused to falsify training records and give Bates credit for "field training he never took and firearms certifications he should not have received."
Tulsa County Sheriff's Major Shannon Clark dismissed the allegations as "rumor" in an interview with NBC News, according to Tulsa World, but the report stated that the allegations are corroborated by records, a statement from Bates himself and the apparent absence of signed documentation that the deputy was certified to use the weapon that killed Harris in the first place.
Bates has since been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Mic reported that he shot Harris during an undercover sting operation that culminated in a car-and-foot chase and multiple Tulsa sheriff's officers pinning the 44-year-old to the ground. Bates shot Harris while he was flat on the concrete. A video of the incident later went public, in which Harris can be heard saying "he shot me" at least eight times, and, "I'm losing my breath."
"Fuck your breath," one of the other officers is heard replying.
The video of the incident came less than a week after another unarmed black man, 50-year-old Walter Scott, was shot in the back and killed by Officer Michael Slager in North Charleston, South Carolina. That incident was also filmed. Both constitute the latest in a recent string of law enforcement killings of unarmed black men that have galvanized many in the nation to protest.
The Tulsa incident is also not the first time a law enforcement official's qualifications have been called into a question after a shooting. Shortly after he killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a park in Cleveland, Ohio, the Northeast Ohio Media Group found that Officer Timothy Loehmann had been declared unfit for duty by another police department two years earlier. According to Mic, Independence, Ohio, Deputy Police Chief Jim Polak called Loehmann's handgun performance "dismal," saying he was "distracted," "weepy" and "could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections."
So why was Robert Bates on the street with the Tulsa County sheriff's officers to begin with? Apparently because of a program that allows people who donate large sums of money to patrol with the department from time to time. According to Tulsa World, this program is now under internal review.
What is going on, America?