Tulsa County police has released a video showing the horrifying moment a reserve deputy who thought he had pulled out his Taser accidentally shot an unarmed suspect. A police sergeant tasked with investigating the incident said the reserve deputy was a victim of a phenomenon called “slips and capture.”
“I shot him, I’m sorry”
The accidental shooting happened on April 2 while the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office Violent Crimes Task Force was conducting an entrapment operation dubbed by the office as “a controlled buy of guns and ammunition from a known, convicted felon.”
Reserve Deputy Robert Bates was helping other deputies chase down felon Eric Harris who was still trying to escape the police even after being instructed to lie on the ground. When the deputies were holding Harris down, Bates shouted “Taser! Taser!” and a gunshot was heard on the background of the video.
Harris continued to try to escape from the police but in the middle of the chaos shouted, “He shot me! He shot me, man. Oh, my god. I’m losing my breath.”
The deputies holding him seemed unaware, with one saying he should not have “f****** run.”
In the middle of the commotion, Bates was heard saying that he shot Harris.
“I shot him! I’m sorry,” Bates said.
But the case was made worse when one of the deputies told Harris, “f*** your breath, shut the f*** up!”
According to the police, Harris died one hour after the accidental shooting.
Reserve deputy was a victim
Tulsa police sergeant Jim Clark explained that what went on during the incident was what they call the “slips and capture” high stress phenomenon. He explained that this phenomenon constitutes a behavior when one person slips off from what he intended to do because he or she was overcome by a stronger response.
Clark said this phenomenon was studied by Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute.
“These are mistakes that are made when you think you are doing one thing but you actually are doing another, and the result often is directly opposite of what you intended. In effect, your intended behavior slips off the path that you want it to go because it is captured by a stronger response and sent to a different direction,” Clark explained as quoted by CNN.
“This is the slip and capture. Under time pressure to address a perceived threat, his intention to draw his Taser slipped off his agenda, so to speak, when it was captured and completed by a more well-rehearsed motor program… He was not conscious of this unfortunate switch until after the shot was fired. In his urgency, his concentration was focused exclusively on Harris’ back, where he intended to place the Taser darts. Because of what’s called ‘inattentional blindness,’ meaning that he wasn’t consciously paying attention to and registering it, he wouldn’t have been aware that the feel of the gun was different from that of the Taser. And in this case the weight of the gun and Taser are nearly identical,” Clark explained of Bates’ accidental shooting.
With this, Clark said Bates is not criminally responsible and in fact was a victim of the phenomenon.
As for the expletive the other deputies were heard saying, Clark said they were experiencing auditory exclusion. It can be heard in the video that the deputies did not hear the gunshot, and they thought Harris was saying that he was out of breath from running, Clark explained.
“One deputy thought he was going to have to shoot this person at the arrest site. It’s very upsetting when you think you are going to have to take someone’s life and this deputy, one of the involved deputies, was upset. Secondly, this is total stress. They are going after a dangerous suspect that they have no idea whether or not this person is armed,” Clark expounded.
“They did not know that he was shot at this time. They had audio exclusion. They was at a point where they couldn’t hear. They didn’t even hear the gunshot go off. The officers did not know that Mr. Harris had been shot.”
Clark said Bates’ age was not a factor in his slip.
According to officials, investigation is still ongoing and officials are still deciding whether a criminal case can be filed in court.
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