The family of an unarmed Oklahoma man fatally shot by an elderly reserve deputy claims officials tried to conceal the circumstances surrounding the death.
Andre Harris, brother of 44-year-old Eric Harris, claimed in a Monday press conference that a deputy from the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office told him to not get a lawyer and also lied about his brother being under the influence of drugs when Robert Bates, 73, fired the fatal gunshot.
Flanked by lawyers, Andre Harris told reporters gathered in Tulsa that a sheriff’s office representative, identified by attorney Dan Smollen as Officer Bill McKelby, admitted to him that a mistake was made.
“We know what happened to your brother, we apologise,” Andre Harris recalled the officer saying. “You don’t have a lawyer, do you?”
When the grief-stricken man replied no, he was advised against finding representation.
“Doesn’t everybody get a lawyer when they’re in this situation?” Andre Harris recalled asking.
“We want to make this right because when we make mistakes, we man up, we do the right thing,” the officer told Andre Harris. “You sit by the phone and wait for that call, we’re gonna make it right.”
The cop further warned Andre Harris: “If you hire a lawyer, it will gum things up. It will slow things down. We want to make this right.”
Smollen then explained that Bates, who was charged Monday with second-degree manslaughter, did not give a statement about the incident until at least four days later and while in the presence of an attorney who is also a former cop.
The lawyer also held up both a .357 magnum — the handgun from which the fatal shot was discharged — and a yellow stun gun.
“There is absolutely no way, if Mr. Bates had been trained at all … that an officer who is trained would never get these two weapons confused,” Smollen insisted.
Video made public over the weekend does not show the lethal shot, but the sound of a gun firing can be heard shortly before Eric Harris repeatedly screams about being shot.
Officers later claimed that Eric Harris was high on the drug PCP when apprehended shortly after he fled on foot during a gun-buying sting.
Both Smollen and Andre Harris claim the assertion of drug use was a lie and that medical records will prove them right.
Multiple phone messages left by Business Insider seeking comment from the Tulsa Sheriff’s Office have yet to be returned.
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