I'm Right Again Dot Com

A new commentary every Wednesday   -  April 22, 2015

No, not another police shooting!

    The scene opens like innumerable fictional TV crime shows. In the video released by police, 44-year-old Eric Harris is seen haggling with undercover agents during the negotiation concerning an illegal gun transaction near Tulsa, Oklahoma, then was shown fleeing on foot with undercover officers in pursuit. Harris is taken down. One of the several officers is seen kneeling on his head.

    In the struggle that was captured by police mini-cameras, a single shot is heard and immediately a voice shouts, "Oh, I shot him. I'm sorry!" I'm sure that had feedback technology been able to capture the collective gasp from those of us who viewed this brief episode again and again, the volume would have been thunderous.

    The release of this video follows a continuing public outcry over a rash of recent cases involving the shooting and strangulation of unarmed black men by police officers—in Missouri, South Carolina and New York City. By now, the world must know that Harris is black.

    Then, to learn that the shooter, Robert Bates, was a volunteer, a reserve deputy, and not a regularly commissioned peace officer, but instead, a wealthy, white, 73-year-old retired insurance company executive (He sold his insurance company for $6-million), and police officer wannabee, caused the case to go viral on both the Internet and broadcast TV. Not only was Bates the principal in the lead story on all national news programs, but he and his family got an extended interview on NBC's "Good Morning America," in order to explain what his attorney contends was merely an accident.

    The coverage of the killing has became nothing less than surreal.

    The defense attorney permitted his client to admit that in the heat of the moment, while Harris continued to struggle with those arresting him, Bates says that he intended to use his Taser to quell Harris, but instead accidentally pulled and fired his personally purchased revolver, killing Harris.

    After gathering testimony for a week, the Tulsa County District Attorney charged Mr. Bates with Second-Degree Manslaughter involving Culpable Evidence. He was released on $25,000 bail. If convicted, Bates could receive up to four years in prison and a fine that would not exceed $1,000. Whether or not he is convicted and sentenced, or exonerated, this story is not going to go away for awhile.

    Oklahoma law defines culpable evidence as "The omission to do something which a reasonably careful person would do, or the lack of the ordinary care and caution in the performance of an act usually and ordinarily exercised by a person under similar circumstances and conditions." One is left to imagine what a field day attorneys for the prosecution and defense are going to have with this.

    Perhaps, during the course of a trial, we shall learn the answer to several conundrums. Many police departments put an age cap—usually around 40 years—on new cops. What is a 73-year old multi-millionaire with exactly one year's experience (1964-1965) in law enforcement doing in a hazardous sting operation? Admittedly, reserve and volunteer officers release many regular officer from routine patrol and administrative functions. Not only do they most often work without pay, but in the case of some towns, such as Oakley, Michigan, each pays $1,200 for the privilege of wearing a badge. My experience is that few if any carry a firearm. 

    Apparently, "Bob" Bates exceeded that beneficence. He purchased and donated all manner of equipment to the Tulsa County Sheriff's Department, including vehicles. He not only donated $2500.00 to Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz's successful re-election campaign, but served as chairman of the campaign.


    -Phil Richardson, Observer and Storyteller. 

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Disclaimer: For 25 years, the Writer's brother was a Special Agent for what was then the Illinois Central Railroad. A brother-in law was a District Attorney, Circuit Judge and retired Appellate Judge. A son-in-law was a Police Officer in Tucson for 25 years.  Richardson was a member of the board of the 88-Crime Board (raising funds to pay confidential informants) in Tucson for many years and was chosen "Crime-Fighter of the Year." by the Pima County, Arizona County Attorney's office, while following his career in broadcasting.

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