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Tulsa Meth and Guns Suspect Killed When Reserve Deputy Grabs Pistol Instead of Taser

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #881)
Consequences of Prohibition

A Tulsa man targeted in undercover meth and gun trafficking investigations was shot and killed last Thursday by a 73-year-old reserve deputy who said he mistook his pistol for a Taser. Eric Harris becomes the 16th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to Tulsa's News on 6, citing a Tulsa County Sheriff's Office account, Harris was being investigated for "a form of methamphetamine called ICE" by the Violent Crimes Task Force. He sold meth to undercover officers on several occasions, during which he mentioned that he could also obtain a sawed-off shotgun and other weapons.

The task force set up a gun buy in a Dollar Store parking lot, and Harris delivered a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and 300 rounds of ammunition.

When an "arrest team" of deputies tried to arrest him, he "confronted undercover deputies" and fled. Deputies "observed him reaching for his waistband areas near his hip, causing concern for deputies' safety," according to the sheriff's office statement.

When deputies caught up to him, Harris continued to struggle and "refused to pull his left arm out from underneath his body where his hand was near his waistband." Reserve Officer Charles Robert Bates, 73, who was assigned to the task force, opened fire, striking Harris once.

The sheriff's office has not mentioned recovering any weapon from Harris (other than the one he sold them earlier).

According to the sheriff's office, "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."

The sheriff's department report said Harris briefly continued to resist arrest after being shot before officers managed to cuff him. It also claimed he told emergency medical personnel at the scene he had taken PCP. He was transported to a local hospital, where he died.

Bates is a retired long-time Tulsa police officer and "advanced level" reserve deputy, meaning he had hundreds of hours of training and annual weapons exams. He had training in "homicide investigations, meth lab identification and decontamination, and other specialized training."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


LLB (not verified)

How on earth can you not stop a milli second and make sure that you are grabbing a taser and not a gun?. The man is 73 yrs old omg and doesn't know if he has a taser or a gun and now a man is dead!!!!!!!!!! The officer needs to own this and he needs to fully retire. I am sure that like all cop killings he will be treated with impunity and face no charges

Fri, 04/10/2015 - 8:45pm Permalink
Will Bonnette (not verified)

Once again, police everywhere are shamed by some of their ranks who are supposedly sworn to protect and serve.....don't. Grandpa done bought himself a deputy position because he donates regularly to the Sheriff's campaign fund. The Sheriff should be brought up on charges for misuse of his position.....selling a deputy position to someone who wants to be a hero..even if this was common practice this guy should have been disqualified from the very start.....he is obviously not trained or qualified. The DA should be placed on administrative leave for not picking up the case, which is obvious misuse of his position and of course grandpa should be charged....let him tell the judge that he mistook the taser for a real gun, (completely unbelievable)....whoever came up with these excuses should be charged with an overactive imagination cause they don't fly......not matter how well intentioned he was he should have been brought up on charges, for God's sake, he KILLED someone....While some may feel that the victim was involved in a crime, he was not given due process, (killed with a policeman on his back and surrounded by at least 6 other officers no less) is this any different from George Zimmerman the guy who shot Trayvon Martin?.....neither one should have been carrying a gun, or trying to play fantasy cop. How do we spell "criminal justice system reform?" No matter what the argument, the figures supporting disparity don't lie.......that is the real injustice.

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 1:38pm Permalink

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