“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.