Robert Bates, the 73-year old auxiliary policeman who shot and killed an unarmed, subdued man said that it could happen to anybody. Really?
That photo up there shows Bates staring defiantly into the camera as his two idiot daughters bob their heads up and down in tune with their father's hollow assertions. Matt Lauer, too bobbed his head in sympathy.
It isn't, however Bates who needs sympathy and what happened didn't happen to him.
When Bates said that it could happen to anybody, the anybody to whom he was referring was himself. It is Mr. Bates' unrepentant contention that anybody could draw a loaded firearm and shoot it before realizing that it was not the plastic Taser that he intended to draw and shoot.
What, you may ask was a 73-year old insurance salesman doing, involved in a sting operation, chasing down suspects? Good question.
Mr. Bates training and his very attachment to the Tulsa police department were the subject of a 2009 investigation. Perhaps, if Mr. Bates didn't cajole his way out of that boondoggle, Mr. Harris would still be alive.
One problem for Mr. Bates is that is wasn't "anybody" it was him. The other problem is that it's not as common an occurrence as he would like Matt Lauer to believe.
I only found two previous cases of a firearm mistakenly used instead of a Taser, both in California.
In 2002, a female police officer in Madera shot a handcuffed man sitting in the back of a police car, killing the man instantly.
The officer, Marcie Noriega had several similar mishaps during her training period and should probably have been on parking meter patrol. The victim, 24-year old Everado Torres was an Olympic boxing hopeful.
In 2012, the City of Madera settled with the Torres family for $775,000.
In 2009, BART cop, Johannes Mehserle shot and killed 22-year old Oscar Grant. Mehserle maintains that he meant to pull his Taser, but he also said he thought Grant was going for a gun.
Would a cop pull a Taser if he thought his prisoner was going for a gun? I don't know, either, but BART settled with the family for $2.8 Million and Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
It appears that cops shooting real guns instead of electronic Tasers is a pretty exclusive club. By my tally, the number is three. Robert Bates may have been a little too generous to himself when he said it could happen to anybody.
According to Bates, he meant to use his Taser. We'll never know if that's true, he may not even know the truth himself. What we do know is that he drew a .357 Magnum revolver and shot one bullet into the back of unarmed man, being restrained by several able-bodied cops.
Immediately after the shooting, Bates said, "Oh! I shot him. I'm sorry." He said it with as much emotion as if he said, "Oops, sorry I spilled beer on your shoes."
In South Carolina, Officer Michael Slager shot Walter Scott in the back as Scott was running away. Slager was charged with murder and his victim at least had a running start. Bates' victim was pinned to the ground.
What frames this incident so clearly, though is not just Bates shooting Harris, it's what happened immediately thereafter.
One of the cops holding Harris down had his knee on the back of Harris' head. The cop had to have heard Bates' gun go off, but he didn't release his hold. When Harris, who was just shot in the back said that he was losing his breath, the cop, with his knee still on Harris' head said, "Fuck your breath."
Quite a display of compassion for a fellow human being. Then again, Harris was black and, from all available evidence, white cops just don't seem to see black men as fellow human beings anymore.
After being charged with involuntary manslaughter, Bates needed to do some soul searching. He can currently be reached on a beach in the Bahamas.
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