this episode in Tulsa where a 73-year old reserve deputy shot and killed a suspect, Eric Harris, has layers that are just really bizarre to me. After witnessing video of a man dying on the street in NYC who said he could not breathe--to hear an officer answer another man's dying words with "Fuck your breath!" is just jarring; like a recapitulation for anyone who needed it that there was an element of dehumanization in some police confrontations.
What I can't wrap my mind around is the idea that a person can become a reserve deputy with, it seems, a limited amount of training and work a case where this potential of danger exists. I just don't know if a person working law enforcement part-time and trained late in life is going to have the right reflexes. So while I understand what Robert Bates and his attorney are trying to say in this Today show interview about how this kind of confusion in the heat of the moment can and has occurred before, I just don't see where doing this kind of interview helps him any. I don't know if it makes sense that his taser and his firearm, being in entirely different positions on his body, were confused. I don't know if saying this was the "second worst thing" that happened to him is understood as being the first worst in terms of things he regrets. (I'm not a lawyer, but maybe I wouldn't have given the go-ahead for such an interview if I were? In any event, I'd want to save it for a jury instead of risking sounding disingenuous before a handful of millions of people.)
But in any event, it's the Tulsa PD that I think have the real problem here, because the culpability for who they assign what is on them, and frankly, I find the callousness of the officers who abused the dying suspect instead of calling in medical aid a real issue. Eric Harris was certainly no angel, but he was a man in their custody and had the presumption of innocence under the law, and the benefit of his humanity to enjoin them to humane treatment. While deadly force can be used on a fleeing suspect where a threat to the public is determined, once he was in that condition, he was not a threat to anyone.