An Oklahoma reserve sheriff’s deputy accidentally shot and killed a man he was trying to arrest after mistaking his service weapon for a stun gun, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office said on Saturday.
Eric Harris, in his 40s, was shot by the reserve deputy on Thursday following a foot chase, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Tulsa County Sheriff’s investigators were looking into the incident, the statement said. An autopsy on Harris was expected to be completed in coming days.
Undercover police had bought ammunition and a semi-automatic pistol from Harris when arresting officers attempted to arrest him in a parking lot, the sheriff’s office said.
Harris fled and when police caught up with him, he resisted arrest, the statement said.
Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, a 73-year-old former police officer, was trying to help officers take Harris into custody when he fired his gun, the statement said.
“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, firing one round which struck Harris,” it said.
The sheriff’s office said Harris continued to struggle after the gun was fired, and might have been under the influence of drugs. He was described as a felon and had been under investigation for narcotic sales.
Harris’ relatives could not be reached by telephone for comment. His death follows a string of fatal shootings involving police that have sparked a national debate about use of force by law enforcement.
Bates told the Tulsa World newspaper his attorney had advised him not to comment on the shooting.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Seattle; Editing by Ian Simpson and Chizu Nomiyama)