Police Abuse

From 'I Can't Breathe' to 'Fuck Your Breath': Tulsa Deputies Show Stunning Lack of Empathy in New Video of Eric Harris Shooting

Reserve Deputy Robert Bates said he thought he was holding a Taser, not a handgun, when he fired at Harris.

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As several high-profile police shootings last summer stretched into a barrage of police brutality throughout the fall, the last words of NYPD-victim Eric GarnerI can't breathe—soon became something of an unofficial rallying cry for the burgeoning movement against police bias, militarization, and abuse. With that in mind, the words a Tulsa, Oklahoma, deputy spoke to an unarmed black suspect who had just been shot become all the more chilling: "Fuck your breath." 

On April 2, several deputies including Robert Bates, a 73-year-old reserve deputy for Tulsa County, were pursuing 44-year-old Eric Harris for allegedly trying to sell an illegal gun to an undercover officer. Video shot by deputies with cameras in their sunglasses show Harris running and a deputy tackling him. Then, as Harris is laying on the ground subdued, a gunshot can be heard, followed by Bates: "Oh, I shot him. I'm sorry." 

As Harris screams in pain, crying out that he didn't do anything to deserve being shot, an unnamed deputy replies, "You fucking ran. Shut the fuck up." When Harris says he's having trouble breathing, a deputy replies, "Fuck your breath." 

Harris was taken to the hospital, where he later died. Deputy Bates said he thought he had been holding a Taser gun when he fired at Harris, not his handgun. 

"Reserve deputies are generally volunteers, often with other full-time jobs," the Associated Press notes. When Bates isn't brandishing a state-provided firearm as a volunteer on the Violent Crimes Task Force, he works as an insurance company executive.

This sort of thing is "not all that uncommon," points out Lindsey Bever at The Washington Post

Volunteer reserve officers have become a staple in the Tulsa sheriff's department, which reportedly uses about 100 of them, as well as in many other cities. It's not unusual for them to be out on assignment, Tulsa County Sheriff's Maj. Shannon Clark told the Tulsa World. By trade, they're bankers, doctors, lawyers, retired cops or even celebrities. They get varying degrees of training and they help the local police, not just by patrolling with them, usually at no cost, but also sometimes by bringing their own equipment, including weapons. Some departments even request donations in exchange for the positions.

Arming minimally-trained civilians and then sending them off to apprehend violent criminals (or at least people they've been told are likely violent criminals) seems 99.9 percent destined to end badly. And the deputy's comments after Harris was shot belie a truly disturbing lack of empathy. But according to Tulsa Police Sgt. Jim Clark, who recently finished investigating the incident, this was just a routine "slips and capture" problem, something that could happen to any of us.

At a press conference April 10, Clark said that people in emergency situations routinely believe they are doing one thing but accidently slip into doing something else. This can also happen in non-emergency situations, such as when someone tries to insert a car key into the wrong spot, Clark explained. In Bates' case, he simply slipped from using his Taser to using his handgun and "was not conscious of this unfortunate switch until after the shot was fired," Clark said. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to file charges.

Update: Associated Press is reporting that Deputy Bates has been charged with manslaughter.

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  1. No charges will be filed.

    See? volunteers are real cops.

    1. So if the volunteers are not real pigs, do they get not real immunity?

    2. Oh shit. I changed that right as the post was about to publish but must not have quite made it in time. It should/now says that prosecutors haven’t decided yet whether to file charges (though sgt. clark wasn’t recommending it)

      1. You had one job, ENB…

        1. The alt-text is there, it’s all OK

        2. Why does it even matter? Just watch what will happen in the case from SC where the cop did get charged with murder. The Jury won’t convict the bastard because we live in a society of gutless sheep. And even if you could find 12 people who would vote to convict him, the prosecution will never allow any of those people to be on the jury.

          1. Sorry, I meant the defense, not the prosecution. Either way, he won’t be convicted.

            1. No, you were right the first time. Deck’s stacked.

          2. It seems he has now been charged at least, with manslaughter: https://twitter.com/AP/status/587708596244389892

            1. They should all be charged since they continued to arrest him after he was shot.

          3. Sitting on a jury that convicts a LEO sounds dangerous?

      2. Way to make me look like an ass, ENB.

        1. You really didn’t need any help with that, Hugh.

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  2. A weekend warrior got to kill a man and will face no consequences?

    1. Here, let me fix that for you. “A weekend warrior killed a man and will face no consequences.”

      1. Here, let me fix that for you. “A weekend warrior killed a man and will face no consequences.”

        Weekend warrior apprehended a suspect, shots were fired, and the suspect died. Nothing else happened.

    2. Not true about no consequences. He said he’s real, real sorry and could face days of depression.

      BTW: So this was just a normal day. Wannabe cop can’t tell difference between taser and real gun, and Rudolf the red-nosed investigator can’t tie his tie, but excuses accidental homicide as little mistake.

  3. soon became something of an unofficial rallying cry for the burgeoning movement against police bias, militarization, and abuse.

    That’s not really how I remember it…

  4. The “my hand slipped” defense. I wonder how that’d work out for us peons?

    1. I wouldn’t recommend trying it unless having a cocktails of lethal substances injected into your veins is on your to do list.

      1. To be fair, they’d probably charge it as 2nd degree murder, and usually the death penalty is off the table for that charge.

    2. Being a cop means only having to say you’re sorry.

  5. In Bates’ case, he simply slipped from using his Taser to using his handgun and “was not conscious of this unfortunate switch until after the shot was fired,” Clark said.

    How is that not criminal negligence?

    If my foot “simply slipped” from using the brake to using the accelerator and I ran over a cop, do you suppose any charges would be filed?

    Yeah, that’s what I thought.

    1. I slipped from submitting to shooting at you. Think that defense will hold up at my trial?

      1. “I thought I was handing the officer my license and instead I was squeezing the trigger on my pistol. Sorry ’bout that. I’ll try not to let it happen again.”
        – worst defense ever if the roles were reversed

        1. Worst defense either way, but it gets play on the one side.

    2. No charges would be filed. You’d have a cop on the hood of your car, emptying a whole magazine into your face.

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  6. trying to sell an illegal gun

    Was it stolen?

    1. That’s just the icing on the fucking cake — that this man’s entire interaction with the cops, the whole incident itself, was rooted in a free man possessing a firearm (an inalienable human right) that somehow didn’t comply with some regulation. Fucking despicable.

      1. Every single law must be predicated on the premise that lethal force will be used to enforce it if necessary.

        But we’re only allowed to look at police shootings of non-cops through the prism of race.

      2. He was a felon. So he was only sort of a free man.

        He wasn’t still locked up, but he still had that invisible leash on him.

      3. Eh, this was a setup. Even taking the most jaundiced view of cops, they would want to maximize the penalty, which likely means the gun was ill-gotten gains.

  7. The New Amatuerism

  8. “You fucking ran. Shut the fuck up.”

    I’m pretty sure this is what a terrier thinks when it chases and catches a rat.

    “Fuck your breath.”

    Just another case of the 90% of bad cops making the good 10% look bad, right?

    Deputy Bates said he thought he had been holding a Taser gun when he fired at Harris, not his handgun.

    Incompetence? Failure to properly train? Manslaughter? Callous disregard for human life? Abuse of power? Take your pick.

    1. I’m going to go with “Promotion.” and “Never has to buy his own drinks at a cop bar ever again.”

      1. Someday when I get rich, I’m going to buy a cop bar and rename it “the pig trough”.

        -jcr

    2. No, no, the cop saying “Fuck your breath” wasn’t bad! He just totally didn’t hear the shot! Audio exclusion, you’ve probably never heard of it.

      The officer or officers heard cursing at Harris were also influenced by the stress of the apprehension, according to Capt. Bill McKelvey of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, who said that even though they can be heard replying to Harris’ cries, they did not hear the gunshot or Harris’ repeated assertion that he’d been shot.

      “They did not know that he was shot at this time,” McKelvey said. “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 added that the language used by the officer was a product of stress and in no way should have any bearing on whether the shooting was justified.

      1. Uh… If you’re not wearing hearing protection and a gun “goes off” in your presence… you’re going to fucking hear it.

        1. Yeah, at this point they’re just making shit up. “Slips and capture”? “Audio exclusion”?

          1. Utter bullshit. Audio exclusion refers to an inability to hear because a gun was fired next to your head or ambient noise drowning stuff out.

          2. Are these terms the cop-equivalent of “micro-aggression” and “triggering?”

            In that they are utter and complete bullshit dressed up to look like real things?

            1. Well, they serve the same purpose: no one should have to take responsibility for their actions. Ever.

              1. *nods aggressively*

          3. And if Harris had a gun on him and shot one of the heroes in blue I bet (1) they all would have heard it and (2) they all would have heard the person shot agonizing in pain. Is the condition called selected audio exclusion?

      2. The pool of blood forming from under him might have clued them in.

      3. Oh, so they couldn’t hear the gunshot over the sudden, loud report from some unexplained nearby explosion. Seems reasonable.

      4. The volunteer “officer” can’t figure out whether he has a taser or gun in his hand. The other officers can’t hear a gun shot or a person screaming in pain after being shot due to audio exclusion whatever the f that is. Pretty pathetic excuses for inexcusable behavior.

    3. I can’t pick until you add “all the above” as an option.

    4. Dementia

  9. It sounds like Bates wanted to play with his toys and show how macho he was. No wonder he gravitated towards working for the local cops.

    Charge him with aggravated murder, convict him, sentence him to death by electrocution, and let him ride the lightning. Firing squad is also acceptable.

    1. Honestly, this is not very far removed from the sort of rationale that a lynch mob uses. Fetishizing the idea of deterrence (which doesn’t actually require that the one punished is guilty), dismissing any requirement for consistent definition of criminal charges, minimizing the consequences of death as punishment. The only real difference is that you still do seem to require a kangaroo court. How noble of you.

      This case appears, like the Scott case, to be a case of criminally negligent manslaughter. With potentially some other deputies charged with lesser felonies.

      I’m kind of surprised in these police abuse of power cases by how many purportedly libertarian commenters are completely willing to ignore even the existing judicial processes/restraints that keep the state from killing you for no reason. These abuse of power cases are disturbing and a serious problem. But be careful what you wish for – because you might just get it.

    2. Firing squad is also acceptable.

      A firing squad would also add a much needed dose of irony.

  10. Arming minimally-trained civilians and then sending them off to apprehend violent criminals (or at least people they’ve been told are likely violent criminals) seems 99.9 percent destined to end badly.

    Are you talking about the “regular” police here? Because it could apply equally to either. If you’ve ever seen a cop shoot at the range, you’d get an idea how “trained” they are.

    Frankly, I’d rather have a person who most of the time works with and around normal everyday people be a cop than a full-time, “non-civilian” cop any day. At least they are slightly grounded in reality.

    1. you have a point. the insurance exec apologized and the full time professional said fuck you.

      1. Proving that insurance exec wasn’t properly trained.

    2. That line made me cringe as well.

    3. I knew somebody else would call out that line.

  11. I need to get into contact with the Tulsa Sheriff’s Office. I have a few people I wish I could kill, and I want to know how much it costs to buy one of those reserve deputy positions. It’d be nice to be able to kill them without fearing punishment.

    1. Whoopsie…used the handgun instead of the Taser…oh well, accidents happen.

    2. Used to be you had to work in the post office.

  12. Oh, and also this:

    “You fucking ran. Shut the fuck up.”

    tells us all we need to know about whether it’s a potential death sentence just to run, not even to be a threat. And that they are 100% conscious of that.

    1. All the regular beat cops I know have one thing in common: they pretty much sucked at everything growing up and now they have power.

    2. Makes me wonder if the reason they run is because submitting and lying on the ground doesn’t mean you won’t get shot.

  13. Now i’m not saying the cops should have shot him, but i don’t understand how everyone is surprised when someone runs from the cops, resists arrest, etc. and the police respond with violence
    I mean if he hadn’t tried to run he’d still be alive, right? Cops are assholes, why give them a reason to hurt you?

    1. Why should they get to murder someone just because they ran? The guy was already on the ground and subdued when the dumb shit old geezer shot him.

    2. I mean if he hadn’t tried to run he’d still be alive, right? Cops are assholes, why give them a reason to hurt you?

      Did you miss the part where he was on the ground before he was shot? Yes, it is stupid to run from predators, but after he had been caught there was no reason to escalate it any further. And it was going to be escalated; I meant to tazer him instead of shoot him, really.

      1. “Yes, it is stupid to run from predators…”

        Not if you don’t have the option of killing them first.

    3. So cops are like dogs, you trigger their prey instinct and you get what you deserve? How about we start holding them to human standards of behavior and see what happens.

      1. Maybe we could except for the fact that even if they get charged, no jury will convict them. We live in a nation of sheep.

      2. So cops are like dogs, you trigger their prey instinct and you get what you deserve? How about we start holding them to human standards of behavior and see what happens.

        Until we do so, it is quite prudent to treat any interaction with a cop like you’re confronting an abused pit bull. This in no way justifies them acting like abused pit bulls, but it could potentially keep you alive long enough to get out of the visual range of their bloodshot eyes.

        1. So just keep repeating ‘good boy, good boy’ while you try to reassure the cop you’re not doing anything hostile? Maybe carrying piggy treats with me could help too.

          1. I always carry a portable DVD player and a disc with a four hour loop of the Rodney King footage. Most cops disengage with me since it interferes with them beating off to their favorite video.

          2. I always carry a portable DVD player and a disc with a four hour loop of the Rodney King footage. Most cops disengage with me since it interferes with them beating off to their favorite video.

            1. dude, it’s not 2005 anymore… you can stream it and loop it on your phone!

        2. Squeaky toy and rawhide? Sorry, I work with a rescue.

    4. Man, it’s a good thing this guy didn’t run from the cops.

      1. Wrote about that. Kelly was yelling, “Dad! They’re killing me!” Fucking sickening. The fat pig who lead the charge got off scot free last I heard.

    5. That you, PapayaSF?

      Damn him for running. And damn that girl for wearing that skirt, right? Should’ve known she’d be raped. And damn that Jewish guy walking through a Muslim neighborhood! Or… aw, fuck, can’t do this, it’s too depressing.

    6. There’s always at least one “we should blame the dead guy” comment in these threads…

      Yes, running from cops probably isn’t the best idea.

      Is it stupid enough to get a summary death sentence? No.

    7. The sad part is, I’m not surprised. But that doesn’t mean it is morally reprehensible, it just means that morally reprehensible is common.

  14. Bates: “Oh, I shot him. I’m sorry.”

    Pig #2: “WTF? That was our shoot, bitch! You’re only allowed to shoot puppies now! You’re buying all the doughnuts tomorrow.”

  15. I mean if he hadn’t tried to run he’d still be alive, right?

    He’d have better odds, but no guarantees.

    See, e.g., Eric Garner, who did not try to run, but tried to talk to the police instead when they came looking for somebody else.

    So they killed him.

    1. Number 2 rule after not running from the cops. Don’t talk to the cops.

    2. But Garner was apparently selling untaxed cigarettes! No need to run since that carries a death penalty.

      1. And don’t dare try to get your license out of your car after you’re told to see your license or you may be shot.

  16. Kneeling on someone’s head is an excellent way to staunch the flow of blood from a wound to the torso.

    1. It works almost as well as a choke hold.

    2. Frankly, a bullet to the head would have balanced the flow of negative humors between the head and body and he would have lived. It also makes more sense than that “audio exclusion” bullshit that Andrew S. linked to.

  17. You misspelled “completely unsurprising”.

    I don’t own any tasers, but I definitely know when I’m holding a goddam pistol in my hand.

    1. I would think there would be a weight differential.

      Reaching for the Taser, slipping up and grabbing the sidearm. This is the “Whoops! Wrong hole… sorry honey!” defense.

      1. I’m not positive about this but I think most law enforcement agencies either encourage if not actually require the TASER/stun-gun to be on the opposite side of the service weapon for this exact reason.

      2. I try not to admit to that until I’ve been poking it in there for at least a minute first. Any bitching from her falls under that ‘audio exclusion’ category.

  18. Why was he TASERing a prone subject in the first place? Did he was to see the Negro dance for him?

    1. He’s been waiting for years to use that thing

      1. Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle… he’s been reading about it since he was but a wee lad.

        1. Another day, another shot in back, I think I want to go hide in my Deep Sea Hydrodome.

  19. At least there is no age discrimination in the Tulsa Volunteer police corps.

    1. Yeah, it’s a good thing that even a geriatric old fuck like Bates finally got a chance to kill him one of those negros, and get away with it.

      1. They should just advertise for their volunteers:

        You always dreamed about running around with a gun and playing hero? You want to play out your fantasy of being an army guy? You annoyed by them uppity acting colored folks?

        Well now you dreams can come true! Get a full arsenal of weapons for free! Target practice on dogs! Go on a midnight adventure wearing full military gear and terrorize an entire family with flash grenades! Bag yourself one of those darkies with no worries! This can all be yours!

    2. At first I read that as “the Tulpa Volunteer police corps.” Fittins, since I wouldn’t be surprised if that asshat is a volunteer cop, based on how much cop dick he sucks.

  20. Breaking news: The “reserve deputy” has been charged with manslaughter, despite the recommendation of the Tulsa PD:

    https://twitter.com/AP/status/587708596244389892

    1. I hope the stupid old motherfucker at least goes through years of hell over this. We all know he won’t be convicted, but I hope the rest of his life is a miserable pile of shit.

      You wanted to play hero? Well, lie in the bed that you made.

      1. I wish, but he won’t be convicted and the cop community and their lapdogs will likely be quite generous with their help. He’ll be just fine.

        1. This shit just keeps coming. It’s almost a daily thing now. At some point you think that the levy has to break. If it doesn’t, I feel really bad for all of us.

          1. If I had any hair left I’d be pulling it out of my scalp right about now. How in the name of Jesus Tittyfucking Christ do these people think it is okay to just shoot a guy on the ground while being restrained?

            1. As sarc says: principals over principles

              Police are good and criminals are bad, therefore things that good police do to bad criminals are, by definition, good.

              Moral relativism FTW!!

    2. “despite the recommendation of the Tulsa PD”

      Wow. He shot a man on the ground and they didn’t want him charged.

      1. They all made it home safely, right? That’s all that matters.

      2. Because to them it was justifiable. He had a gun, he ran and he was black. 3 strikes.

    3. Small consolation, but at least it is something.

      Fuck the Tulsa PD.

    4. They all need to be charged.

  21. Then after he’s shot they stick their knee on his head. This after fucking entrapping hi no doubt on the weapons charge. Fuckin’ pigs shot be shot down like dogs.

  22. So, it would have been ok if he had tasered him while he was on the ground in hand cuffs? Not to mention the possibility that he would have electrocuted the cop putting the metal cuffs on the suspect.

  23. Horrible mistake by an unqualified volunteer officer and he will likely go to jail. But “lack of empathy” WTF does that have to do with police in a struggle arresting someone. I don’t think anyone is gonna feel all warm and fuzzy there.

    1. We have a test for that “lack of empathy”. I think cops are required to fail it.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lru1Qxc1l8

    2. So, you’re saying that you missed the part where he was handcuffed on the ground prior to being shot, was then shot, and the heroes on the scene sat on his head and told him to go fuck himself (slightly different phrasing) as he bled?

  24. *brings up NWA on Youtube, again*

    Man, I should just bookmark that fuckin’ video.

  25. “As Harris screams in pain, crying out that he didn’t do anything to deserve being shot, an unnamed deputy replies, “You fucking ran. Shut the fuck up.” When Harris says he’s having trouble breathing, a deputy replies, “Fuck your breath.” ”

    He did not saying he was having trouble breathing, you shit writer.

    He said “I’m losing my breath” after a ton of rambling on.

    Get off reason.com

    1. “Arming minimally-trained civilians and then sending them off to apprehend violent criminals (or at least people they’ve been told are likely violent criminals) seems 99.9 percent destined to end badly.”

      99.9 percent, huh? Yea because we hear stories about this ALL the time. Why just yesterday… wait, no, never mind. You don’t.

      You’re a moron of a writer and if you’re not removed, I’ll no longer be browsing any Reason articles.

      1. Hm. A choice between you or ENB.

        C-YA!

      2. – concerned and potentially former reader

      3. Take care!

      4. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass

      5. I’ll no longer be browsing any Reason articles.

        You won’t be missed. Go back to PoliceONe you fucking cop fellating shitbag.

    2. Seriously? Holstersniffers, man.

    3. “…a ton of rambling on.”

      If by ‘rambling on’ you mean repeatedly pointing out that a trigger happy dumbass had shot him you are spot on.

      But otherwise, GFY.

      Maybe someone should put a bullet in your thoracic cavity just to see what kind of things you say.

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  27. Can I become a pretend cop so I can kill someone?

    I’ve got a little list. They’d none of them be missed.

    1. Only if you pretend kill them.

    2. Nothing pretend about him. He was a duly sworn cop.

      Maybe he was ‘under trained’ by some standards, and it certainly appears he was under qualified, as well as lacking in good judgement, but none of those things make him any less a cop.

      Which is something the elected officials of any and every municipality needs to think about when they review the who’s and how’s of their law enforcement efforts.

      Because this problem neither starts nor ends with the cops. Because if it did then we would truly be living in a police state.

  28. Maybe sending great grandpa out with no training wasn’t such a hot idea.

    1. I’m guessing the cops that flash-banged the toddler in Georgia and the ones that choke-holder Eric Garner to death all graduated from their respective police academies. At least in the is case the DA can separate Bates from the “real” cops enough to justify charging and attempting to convict him.

  29. I like the one with the unarmed cyclist that looks like he’s going to run, changes his mind, pulls over and is immediately shot in the back. By “like” I mean despise. Unfortunately for the cyclist he lacked the skin pigmentation required for a case to receive any attention in the news even though the whole thing was recorded on an exceptionally clear dash cam..

  30. Any liberty-minded LEOs out there willing to register with PoliceOne.com and share the commentary?

  31. This is just the sort of thing Okie prohibitionism exports. Yahoo dictatorships propped up by US taxpayer money look to emulate the americano cops. Is it my imagination or do these violent cracker cops concentrate where there is the most prohibitionism and libertarians are least welcome?
    This footage explains why all a politician has to be is anti-American to get elected term after term in most of Central and South America.
    This is impressive journalism.

  32. Arming minimally-trained civilians and then sending them off to apprehend violent criminals (or at least people they’ve been told are likely violent criminals) seems 99.9 percent destined to end badly.

    It’s just good sense to get training if you are going to carry, but minimally-trained armed civilians isn’t really what scares me. What scares me are armed people basically given a license to kill by the state who can use disastrous incompetence as a defense and reasonably expect to get away with it.

    I think a reasonable punishment is to allow a blindfolded person choose from a taser and handgun and shoot the deputy.

    1. Yeah, the volunteer accidentally shooting someone in cuffs on the ground actually worries me slightly less than the fact that all of the cops on the scene simultaneously and without a word of discussion decided to pretend nothing happened, and I’m not being even a little bit sarcastic about that.

  33. Mistake my ass.

    And that other Deputy?

    Yeah, fuck your breath fuckwit – Here’s to someone taking yours. The sooner the better.

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  35. this was the best echo chamber I’ve read in a while

  36. Robert Bates, a 73-year-old reserve deputy

    73?! WTF? Retire already, Jesus Christ. Fucker shouldn’t be allowed to drive a car, much less commit state sanctioned violence. Fuckin’ A.

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  39. I have a problem with the “civilians” comment in this article. All police officers in the US are civilians, or at least they should be. Half of the problems with law enforcement in this country stem from the martial mentality that has been adopted by our police.

    It should be noted that despite being the cause of this man’s death, the “minimally trained civilian” was the one who had an appropriate response to the situation. He apologized, for what little it’s worth, while the well trained warrior cops yelled expletives and blamed the victim.

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