Tulsa Sheriff's Office Releases Video, Details Of Deputy-Involved Shooting
TULSA, Oklahoma -
[Editor's note: The attached video released by TCSO contains profanity.]
The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office says it has concluded its investigation of the day an undercover sting turned deadly outside a north Tulsa Dollar General store.
- Because of his prior record
- Because he had just resisted arrest
- Because he just sold a gun and drugs to an undercover deputy
- Because he potentially was armed since it isn't uncommon for drug dealers to be armed to protect their illegal products
- And because the manner in which Harris ran and was holding his arms was consistent with having a weapon
Once deputies realized Harris had a gunshot wound, they immediately rendered aid and called for EMSA and firefighters to intervene, Clark said.
“These situations are volatile until handcuffing is applied,” Clark said. “The entire time we have on video, he still hasn't been searched. … Mr. Harris was under the influence of PCP. He confessed to two different EMSA paramedics. Explains why the struggle [on the ground] was so intense.”
Bates, however, immediately was shocked at his own gunshot, Clark said.
“He did not have any intention to shoot Mr. Harris with a handgun,” he said.
One of the reasons why Clark is confident? Because Bates dropped the gun after firing, which is consistent with not realizing he had a gun instead of a Taser, he said.
There's no recoil with a Taser like with a handgun.
“Different in grip between handgun and Taser grip, caused his hand to lose grip and drop because he was not expecting the recoil,” Clark said.
He also said the weight of the weapons alone would not have alerted Bates to the fact he had drawn the wrong one, noting Bates' handgun weighs 11.4 ounces and his Taser is 12.6 ounces. And even though the Taser is kept in an armored vest and a gun on the hip, Clark said he doesn't believe there was any wrongdoing.
He also said Bates' age of 73 years had nothing to do with the shooting or the weapon confusion.
“It's happened to 21-year-old law enforcement officers; it's happened to 30-year-old law enforcement officers,” he said. “Age is not really a factor in consideration of the dynamics of slips-and-capture events."
According to TCSO Capt. Billy McKelvey, Bates is involved with these type of tactical operations routinely.
“Happens every day in law enforcement where an officer has a lethal weapon and has to transition to a non-lethal weapon… This particular time, Mr. Bates thought he had transitioned to a Taser when he shot Mr. Harris,” McKelvey said.
Investigators detailed Bates' training hours. Bates has been a reserve deputy since 2008 and was voted reserve deputy of the year in 2011.
“He was a citizen volunteer,” McKelvey said. “He has contributed over 1,100 hours to the community. Approximately 300 hours of additional training and is a police-certified law enforcement officer.”
Bates had “well in excess in what you would expect of someone who is meeting minimum requirements,” Jim Clark said.
TCSO Maj. Shannon Clark added that under pressure by the Harris family, the public, media and the DA's office, the investigation was completed very quickly.
“We have done our very best as a sheriff's office to be transparent,” Shannon Clark said. “It has been a very trying last several days.”
He said questions have been levied at the sheriff's department about reserve deputies, tactical operations and the violent crimes task force, which he has answered as much as he could, and now moreso since the investigation is complete and on its way to the DA for his consideration.
Harris had a long criminal record. He was convicted of multiple crimes, including robbery with a dangerous weapon, making threatening calls, escaping from a penal institution, larceny and forgery.
We reached out to the Harris family on Friday, but they haven't responded to our request for comment.
According to a Tulsa funeral home, funeral services for Harris were held on Wednesday.