The sheriff of Tulsa County, Oklahoma on Monday compared the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white reserve deputy to the kind of mistakes doctors make in an operating room.
The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office has said that Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, 73, accidentally shot Eric Harris on April 2 when he mistook his handgun for a Taser while trying to help another deputy subdue Harris. A video released over the weekend showed a deputy telling Harris “fuck your breath” when he complained of being short of breath after being shot.
“He made an error,” Sheriff Stanley Glantz told The Tulsa World newspaper. “How many errors are made in an operating room every week?”
Aside from being a reserve deputy, Bates is an insurance company executive who has donated thousands of dollars in equipment to the sheriff’s office. Glantz described him to the newspaper as a friend going back some 50 years who also had served as his insurance agent.
The Tulsa World previously reported that Bates chaired Glantz’s 2012 re-election effort and donated $2,500 to the sheriff’s campaign.
Asked whether the shooting was justified, Glantz told the newspaper that the question was difficult to answer.
“It was unintentional,” he said. “You know, justified means you had reason to do something. He had reason to get the gun out when the guy was fleeing.”