Did an Oklahoma police officer “cross the line” and shoot an already-tasered, unarmed teen in the back as part of a personal vendetta?
Or was Del City police Capt. Randy Harrison simply acting to “protect the citizens of his city” when he gunned down 18-year-old pot dealer Dane Scott after a high-speed chase followed by a violent scuffle in which Harrison managed to wrest a gun from Scott’s hands?
The first question gets a “yes” from prosecutors, the second from defense lawyers in Harrison’s manslaughter trial, which opened yesterday in Oklahoma City.
The case stems from a shooting incident that claimed the life of the African American teen at the hands of white cop Harrison on March 14, 2012, less than three weeks after the widely publicized killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
The state filed the charges in the aftermath of a racially-motivated shooting spree in Tulsa over Easter weekend of 2012, in which two white men were charged with killing three African Americans and wounding two others, selecting their victims at random simply based on race.
The timing led Harrison’s defense lawyer Doug Friesen to allege that the prosecutors brought manslaughter charges against Harrison because they feared a racial conflict.
But prosecutors say that Harrison (pictured, in court), who had arrested Scott as a juvenile on drug-selling charges the previous year, was obsessed with the teenager.
In fact, another Del City officer, Brad Rule, testified that Harrison sent out a “hot sheet” about Scott as soon as the teenager hit his 18th birthday. Rule, who was present at the shooting, said sending out such an alert was unusual.
“It was something other than professional,” said District Attorney David Prater, of the 23-year Del City police veteran Harisson's pursuit of Scott. “A police officer crossed the line.”
But Rule also testified that Harrison did not intend to kill Scott and was distraught after the shooting, repeatedly imploring the fallen teen, “don’t die on me.”
A friend of Scott’s who was in the car that night testified that the 18-year-old seemed to “panic” when pulled over by Harrison. John Lockett, 17, said he and another passenger pleaded with Scott to stop as he led police on a 100-mph chase that ended only when the car struck a tractor-trailer truck.
At that point, Lockett testified, Scott still had a gun on him. The teen and the officer wrestled, Lockett recounted, with Harrison able to get the gun away from Scott.
But when Scott broke free and ran, Harrison fired four times, hitting the fleeing youth once in the back. Another officer struck Scott with a stun-gun blast as well.
“Dane Scott is dead as the result of the choices that Dane Scott made,” said Friesen in his opening statement, adding that the accused officer, “could not have done anything other than what he did do and not violate his oath.”
Sources: The Oklahoman, Associated Press