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Craig Co. district attorney finds June trooper-involved shooting justified

Posted at 3:38 PM, Sep 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-21 10:19:11-04

TULSA, Okla. — The Craig County district attorney said a trooper-involved shooting in June on the Will Rogers Turnpike is justified.

In a letter, District Attorney Matthew J. Ballard said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Caleb Cole acted appropriately under the circumstances and the shooting was justified under the facts and law.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol released dashcam video from the incident on Friday. It shows, on Thursday, June 25, Cole pulled over a car on the turnpike in rural Craig County, near the turnpike toll plaza.

Cole made contact with the driver, Shunta Chatman, and the passenger, Robert Harris, Ballard said. Cole took Chatman back to his patrol car to talk with her. Afterward, he went back to the passenger side to talk with Harris.

“Mr. Harris appeared very nervous," Ballard said. "His pulse was rapid. He was staring straight ahead, wasn’t acknowledging the trooper.”

The dashcam video had no audio and Cole did not have a body cam on. But, according to Ballard, Cole told Harris to step out of the car and turn around to pat him down.

Instead, Harris went back in the car. Ballard's letter said Harris was holding a cell phone, cigars and possibly a wallet, but put those items down when he sat down and then put his hands out of view.

“And at that moment you notice the trooper demeanor changes," Ballard said. "He begins retreating from his vehicle, draws his weapon, tells Mr. Harris to show him his hands and instead, Mr. Harris comes out with an item in his previously empty hands, and that’s the point the trooper fires one shot.”

Cole said after he fired the shot, he saw a black object fly out of Harris' hand. Investigators later found a gun behind Harris' seat.

Harris died at the hospital. Ballard said an autopsy found that Harris died of a gunshot wound to his head and neck.

During an investigation, Ballard said troopers found that Harris, a convicted felon, was illegally carrying a gun and drugs during the traffic stop.

Ballard said it's a tragic situation for everyone involved.

“It’s certainly very difficult for this family," Ballard said. "I feel for his family. At the same time, this trooper had every right to go home safe. And when he’s confronted with a convicted felon in illegal possession of a firearm, he has to do what he has to do to make it home safe to his family.”

2 Works for You reached out to the lawyer representing the Harris family, but have not heard back.

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