Harris was shot by a reserve deputy in Tulsa during an altercation with police on April 2. The 44-year-old was shot as he was trying to flee an undercover operation, authorities said. The reserve deputy later said he thought he was deploying his Taser rather than his gun. The officer was charged with manslaughter. (Tulsa County Sheriff's Office via Tulsa World)

For many viewers, seeing Eric Harris being fatally shot on camera by Oklahoma authorities was less shocking than hearing what came afterward.

“F— your breath,” an officer yells after a panicked Harris screams that he’s been shot and is losing his breath.

Authorities have said that the phrase was a response to a high-stress situation and argued that — even though officers are directly responding to Harris — they heard neither the gunshot nor the 44-year-old screaming that he’d been shot, according to CNN.

[Thousands of police shootings since 2005 result in few prosecutions]

“They did not know that he was shot at this time,” Capt. Bill McKelvey of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office told CNN. “They had audio exclusion. They was at a point where they couldn’t hear. They didn’t even hear the gunshot go off. The officers did not know that Mr. Harris had been shot.”

But for many observers, the phrase was not only appalling but painfully symbolic — a callous utterance that sounded like a tailor-made response to a nation of demonstrators who have spent months protesting police brutality by chanting Eric Garner’s final, haunting words: “I can’t breathe.” Garner was killed after being held in a chokehold by New York police last summer.

There is, of course, no more elemental human right than the right to breathe. To squelch it — via a chokehold or a perceived denial of medical care — is, for many, the height of inhumanity.

In the 48 hours since video of Harris’s April 2 shooting was released, many of those people turned to Twitter to voice outrage about the unidentified officer’s words.

 [The 73-year-old reserve cop who mistook his gun for a Taser]

More reading: 

Cop once hailed as a hero now accused of tickling a dead man’s toes

Oklahoma deputy who killed unarmed man thought he was firing Taser, authorities say

S.C. investigators say they thought fatal police shooting was suspicious before video emerged