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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: San Francisco Police Department

Dead man’s family doubt SF police claims

In this photo from July 20, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, bottom, addresses Bayview residents upset about the police shooting of Washington state parolee Kenneth Wade Harding in San Francisco. About 300 people gathered for the meeting which ended early following outbursts from some attendees. (AP Photo/San Francisco Chronicle, Noah Berger)

By TERRY COLLINS,Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Distraught relatives of a Washington state parolee who San Francisco police believe fatally shot himself while running away from officers said Monday they are demanding more answers.

Kenneth Harding's family and their attorney said they are troubled with how police have portrayed the shooting. Police first said that the 19-year-old was fatally shot by officers, then said they believed Harding killed himself with his own gun.

“I'm angry and I'm hurt,” Harding's mother, Denika Chatman of Seattle said at a news conference in Oakland. “I want the truth and I want justice to be done.”

Police said officers tried to stop Harding (pictured) while checking for fare evaders on a light-rail train July 16 in the city's Bayview district. His mother said her son, who would have turned 20 on Aug. 5, was in the San Francisco Bay area to visit family and embark on a rap music career.

She also said that her son was enrolled to attend a community college in Seattle this fall.

“We know based upon the police department's shifting stories, conflicting statements, allegations, claims and retractions that the truth seems to be far from at hand,” said Adante Pointer, Harding's family attorney. “A truth that the family is entitled to.”

Police initially said officers gunned down Harding in self-defense after he first shot at them. They later said Harding was a parolee sought for questioning about the fatal shooting of a pregnant woman in Seattle.

Police also that gunshot residue on Harding's right hand backed officers' accounts that Harding fired the first shot as well as audio of the shots captured by a gunshot-detection system used by police.

But angry community reaction to the shooting and videos posted online show Harding bleeding helplessly in the middle of the street as police stood around him with guns drawn and a crowd gathered.

At a packed town hall meeting last week, Police Chief Greg Suhr was cursed and shouted down by outraged residents a short distance from where the shooting took place.

Suhr later said that he now believes Harding shot and killed himself with his own gun. Suhr said after officers shot him in the leg, Harding lurched and fired his gun and the bullet entered the right side of his neck and lodged behind his cheek.

Authorities say they do not know whether Harding killed himself — either intentionally or by accident — with a .380-caliber bullet. A similar bullet was found in Harding's jacket pocket, police said as the gun he apparently used is still missing.

Police said officers only shot Harding in the leg and could not have fired the fatal bullet because they use .40-caliber handguns that cannot fire .380 ammunition.

On Monday, Harding's sister, Mikcolyn Curtis, said her brother told her just hours before her his death that he wanted to provide a better life for their mother.

“He didn't have nothing on his mind to want to blow his brains out,” Curtis said.

Pointer said Harding's family reject the notion that he was on the run and requests police provide them with a preliminary autopsy report, witness statements, surveillance video and the gunshot residue tests.

“So they can have the closure they are entitled to,” Pointer said.

Pointer said they also want witnesses who saw what happened to come forth.

“What's in dispute is the truth and we want to get to the bottom of this situation,” Pointer said. “We've been told a number of different things and we have information that is conflicting. We need to sort this out.”

Police: Dead murder suspect shot self

San Francisco Police chief Greg Suhr speaks at a news conference next to undated booking photos of Kenneth Harding in San Francisco on July 18. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

By TERRY COLLINS,Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A police shooting that stirred community outcry and street protests took a stunning turn Thursday when investigators said they now believe a 19-year-old Washington parolee being sought for questioning in a Seattle murder fatally shot himself in the neck.

Kenneth Harding died Saturday in what San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr previously described as a shootout with police in which Harding fired the first shot.

However, police Cmdr. Mike Biel said Thursday that preliminary autopsy results showed the caliber of the bullet that killed 19-year-old Kenneth Harding did not match the caliber used by police.

“We believe that the fatal wound on Mr. Harding's body was self-inflicted,” Biel said.

John Sanchez, a criminalist at the San Francisco Crime Lab, said the .380-caliber bullet found in Harding's head was not consistent with the.40-caliber guns issued to San Francisco police.

“The bullet could not have been fired from any department-issued firearm,” Sanchez said.

Medical personnel found an unfired .380-caliber bullet in Harding's right jacket pocket, but the gun itself was not recovered, Biel said.

“We want to take this opportunity to reach out to the community in locating the correct weapon,” Biel said. “We believe the weapon that we are looking for is a .380-caliber handgun.”

A gun recovered by police late Saturday as part of the investigation was a .45-caliber pistol and could not have fired the fatal shot, police said.

The only other wound to Harding was a gunshot to his left leg, according to Chief Medical Examiner Amy Hart.

Authorities had not determined whether Harding shot himself on purpose or by accident, police said.

Harding was the main person of interest in last week's South Seattle shooting death of 19-year-old Tanaya Gilbert, Seattle police said. A Seattle police spokesman said he did not have information on the caliber of the gun used in the shooting of Gilbert. No weapon was recovered in that case, Seattle police Detective Mark Jamieson said.

In April, Harding was released from a Washington state prison after he served 22 months for attempting to promote prostitution involving a 14-year-old girl in King County.

Harding had initially been stopped by police in a routine check for fare-beaters on the city's light-rail train system, police said after Saturday's shooting.

Police said Tuesday that gunshot residue on Harding's right hand backed officers' accounts that Harding had fired the first shot, as did audio of the shots captured by a gunshot-detection system used by San Francisco police.

On Tuesday, 43 people were arrested in a raucous rush-hour march to protest Harding's death at the hands of what all believed at the time was police.

On Wednesday night, Suhr was shouted down at a town hall meeting in the city's Bayview neighborhood a short distance from where the shooting took place.

Keevin O'Brien, a minister who co-organized Wednesday's meeting, said he was still trying to process Thursday's developments.

“Nonetheless, we have a dead young man that could've probably changed his life if the police had gotten to him sooner,” O'Brien said. “This should not have happened the way it did.”

O'Brien said the Bayview community is going to have a hard time with the findings.

“They're not going to believe this,” O'Brien said. “They're so broken and hurt by what they already saw. This is going to be hard to digest.”

Biel said Thursday that he also understands likely cynicism in the community.

“I understand how the community feels, however, our investigation is based on total fact. That's what we have now,” Biel said.

O'Brien said he planned on going out in the community Thursday evening to “check its pulse.”

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