MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 26, 2013

Manslaughter case against Del City officer goes to jury


Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma police captain charged with manslaughter in the death of an armed teen "crossed the line" when he shot the man, prosecutors told jurors Monday, while defense attorneys said the officer was trying to protect people and believed the teenager was reaching for a gun.

Jurors got the case at about 4:30 p.m. and continued their deliberations into the night. Del City police Capt. Randy Harrison is charged with first-degree manslaughter in the March 14, 2012, death of 18-year-old Dane Scott Jr. A 23-year veteran officer in an Oklahoma City suburb, Harrison has pleaded not guilty.

Harrison shot Scott in the back after disarming him in a scuffle that followed a high-speed chase. Harrison had previously arrested Scott on drug violations, and prosecutors say the officer's pursuit of Scott became personal rather than profession. They say he shot him at a time when he posed no threat to anyone. But the defense has portrayed Scott as a drug dealer and said the use of deadly force was justified and that Harrison thought the teen might have had a second weapon.

Harrison's attorney said early on that prosecutors were influenced to file charges to prevent the type of racial discord that followed high-profile shootings in Florida and Tulsa last year. Scott was black; Harrison is white. However, prosecutors haven't said that racial bias was an issue in Scott's death, just that Harrison was wrong to shoot him.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater told jurors during closing arguments that Harrison put other people in danger when he fired four shots at Scott, hitting the teenager in the back with the fourth shot and placing bystanders and a fellow officer in harm's way.

Prater said Scott was "no threat at all" at the time. "He's running and holding his pants," the prosecutor added.

Defense attorney Doug Friesen told jurors that while prosecutors tried to portray Harrison as "an out-of-control maniac," he was actually trying to protect his life and the lives of others.

"Randy Harrison was the last person who wanted Dane Scott to die," Friesen said.

Harrison testified earlier Monday that he feared for his life after he and Scott had scuffled over a gun Scott had brandished at him following a collision that ended the high-speed pursuit. He said Scott appeared to be grabbing something in the pocket of his baggy pants and that he feared it was another gun.

"He had just tried to kill me. He would kill anybody to escape," Harrison testified. Harrison said he did not want to kill Scott, "I just didn't have any other choice."

Other witnesses testified that Scott held on to his pants as he ran to keep them from falling down and that they did not consider him a threat. Prosecutors said Scott's pants had blood stains where he had grabbed his pants after injuring his hands in the previous scuffle, but there was no blood around or inside the pocket Harrison said he feared Scott was hiding another gun.

Prosecutors argued that Harrison's pursuit of Scott became personal rather than professional.

According to police, Scott had previous convictions in juvenile court on misdemeanor drug charges and a pending felony case of drug possession with intent to distribute.

Harrison had arrested Scott as he allegedly sold drugs near Del City High School in 2011. Court papers indicate Harrison also saw Scott allegedly selling marijuana from his home. Scott allegedly was selling drugs to a passenger in his car before the pursuit that led to the shooting.