Oklahoma Sheriff Deputy Kills Suspect After Mistaking His Gun For A Taser

An Oklahoma reserve sheriff’s deputy accidentally killed a suspect after a foot chase when he accidentally mistook his gun for a taser. The deputy was reaching for his taser to subdue the suspect who was resisting arrest, but withdrew his handgun instead. The weapon discharged, killing the suspect.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that 73-year-old Reserve Sheriff Deputy Robert Bates was attempting to help police take down a suspect after he ran from the officers on foot. The suspect, Eric Harris, was resisting arrest when Bates says he reached for his taser. However, instead of pulling out his taser, he pulled out his handgun. The gun fired and struck Harris.

Police say that police were struggling to subdue Harris as he refused to remove his hand from underneath his body. Police say his hand was near his waistband and the struggle was evolving rapidly with Harris refusing to follow instructions. This is when Bates stepped in to help the officers. However, he inadvertently discharged his firearm, which resulted in the death of the suspect.

“After a brief foot pursuit, a deputy attempted to physically restrain Harris. As Harris continued to resist arrest, the struggle went to the ground where Harris refused to pull his left arm out from underneath his body where his hand was near his waistband. During the rapidly evolving altercation, the reserve deputy had what he believed was his Taser from his tactical carrier and attempted to render aid in subduing the suspect. Initial reports have determined that the reserve deputy was attempting to use less lethal force, believing he was utilizing a Taser, when he inadvertently discharged his service weapon, firing one round which struck Harris.”

Reuters notes that Harris continued to struggle with officers even after he was shot by Bates’ weapon. Therefore, police think that drugs may have been a contributing factor in Harris’ behavior during the arrest.

Harris was described as a felon by the police and they claim he was being placed under arrest after he sold an undercover police officer ammunition and a semi-automatic pistol. Harris was also being investigated for narcotic sales.

The Sheriff’s Department says they are still investigating the incident and will release more details after the autopsy is complete. Meanwhile, Bates is remaining silent on the matter at the urging of his attorney.

What do you think should happen to the reserve officer who mistook his gun for a taser? What charges should be brought, if any, in this case?

[Image Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]

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