A rally was held today in San Francisco’s Bayview District in response to the fatal police shooting of a 19-year-old man in that neighborhood on Saturday afternoon.
Protesters gathered at the site of the shooting, where Kenneth Harding Jr. allegedly ran from police and fired shots after officers attempted to detain him while conducting fare enforcement at a San Francisco Municipal Railway light-rail stop.
Flowers and candles had been placed at the site, in a brick plaza between the Joseph P. Lee Recreation Center and the Bayview Opera House on the corner of Oakdale Avenue and Third Street.
Chris Jackson, a former candidate for District 10 supervisor, spoke angrily about the shooting. He said he lives a block from where it happened and that afterward residents had crowded around the scene, asking police why an ambulance had not yet arrived.
“This is something that only happens in communities of color,” he said. “When we don’t pay our fare we get chased and shot by the cops. This is an unacceptable outcome.”
Harding was a parolee who was being sought in connection with a homicide in Seattle last week, police said at a separate news conference at the Hall of Justice today.
He was shot at about 4:45 p.m. after running from officers who had taken him off a Muni light-rail vehicle at Third Street and Palou Avenue for suspected fare evasion, according to police.
During the chase, Harding, a Seattle resident, allegedly pulled out a handgun and shot at the pursuing officers, police said. Two officers returned fire, wounding Harding. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:01 p.m., police said.
Police said Harding was a person of interest in a shooting in Seattle last Wednesday that killed a 19-year-old woman and injured three other people.
He had been released on parole in April after serving part of a 22-month sentence for attempting to promote prostitution in a case that involved a 14-year-old victim, and by being in San Francisco he was in violation of his parole, police Lt. Hector Sainez said.
Amateur video footage of the aftermath of the exchange between Harding and the officers on Saturday was posted online and shows a passerby picked up what investigators believe is Harding’s handgun and took it from the area before police could establish the crime scene.
Police received tips that led them to a parolee’s house in the Bayview where they found a gun that “looks like the same firearm that was on the ground,” police Chief Greg Suhr said.
Suhr said ballistic and DNA tests have not been completed to confirm that police have the right gun, and encouraged anyone who might have information indicating otherwise to come forward.
The parolee was not at home and remains at large, but police know his name and are trying to locate him, Suhr said.
The gun is not believed to be the same one used in the Seattle shooting, Suhr said.
The shooting is the third involving San Francisco police since early June. On June 7, officers fatally shot a suspected Southern California bank robber after he allegedly tried to run them over with his car, and on June 29, police shot and wounded a wanted parolee after he allegedly shot at officers.
In addition, BART police shot and killed a knife-wielding man on the platform of San Francisco’s Civic Center station on July 3. In response, protesters disrupted BART service at several stations last Monday.
Saturday’s shooting triggered an impromptu protest in the Mission District early Sunday morning and today’s rally.
Critics of the shooting said the video shows that Harding did not receive medical treatment immediately after the shooting despite several officers being in the area. Suhr said today that was because the officers believed he was still holding a firearm while lying on the ground.
“That’s why their weapons were still pointed,” he said.
He added that the officers beckoned Harding to show his hands for about 90 seconds before they approached him once he stopped moving.
Suhr said the gun was not initially found by officers at the scene because it was apparently thrown about 15 feet when Harding was hit by the gunfire.
At today’s news conference, police also released audio recordings from the department’s ShotSpotter system that picked up 10 shots fired in a six-second period–an initial one believed to be from Harding followed by nine from the two officers.
Suhr, who served as captain of the Bayview Police Station for two years before becoming chief in April, said he wanted to “reassure the community as to what happened” in the shooting, but acknowledged “one incident like this is such a huge setback to our community policing efforts.”
Suhr and other city officials, including Supervisor Malia Cohen, will hold a town hall meeting Wednesday to discuss the shooting. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Bayview Opera House, located at 4705 Third St.
No officers were injured in the shooting. The two officers who fired at Harding have been placed on paid administrative leave, as is standard procedure.
Their names are not being released, but Suhr said both were assigned to the Bayview Station and one is a senior officer there who walks the Third Street beat regularly.
Protesters in the Bayview today highlighted race as an issue in the shooting, and religious leaders and activists spoke passionately about the role of police in minority communities.
“We need to go into that police department and re-educate them,” said the Rev. Jeffery Branner, of St. Andrews Missionary Baptist Church. “They don’t understand our culture.”
Sharon Hewitt, executive director of the Community Leadership Academy and Emergency Response Project, implored attendees to “get up off the ground and fight back.”
“We must end this racial and class divide that allows our young people to be shot in the streets like dogs,” Hewitt said.
Elvira Pollard, whose son, Gustavus Rugley, was killed in a shootout with police in 2004, spoke at the rally to say she did not believe the police version of Saturday’s events, and questioned whether Harding had a gun at all.
“They lie about things that they do and see,” Pollard said.
Some focused on the fare evasion issue that led to the chase.
“They’ve placed the value of a young black man’s life at two dollars,” said Jeremy Miller, co-director of Education not Incarceration, referring to the price of a Muni ride.
Supervisor Cohen appeared at the rally and expressed sympathy for Harding’s family.
The shooting is being investigated by the Police Department’s homicide and internal affairs unit, as well as the city’s Office of Citizen Complaints and the district attorney’s office.
Police are continuing to interview witnesses to the shooting, and are asking anyone with additional information to call the homicide unit at (415) 553-1145, the anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.
Scott Morris/Dan McMenamin, Bay City News