Family members of a Seattle man who died in an officer-involved shooting in San Francisco police want to find out what really happened in the deadly incident, an attorney said today.
Adante Pointer, an associate of Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, said he has not yet decided whether to file a lawsuit on behalf of the family of 19-year-old Kenneth Harding Jr. but at this point wants to “help them get the answers they deserve.”
Pointer alleged that San Francisco police have given out “conflicting” versions of what happened to Harding in a confrontation that began at about 4:45 p.m. on July 16, when police said he ran from officers who had attempted to detain him for fare evasion at a San Francisco Municipal Railway light-rail stop at Third Street and Palou Avenue.
Police initially said officers fatally shot Harding after he fired at them but they later said they believe he killed himself with his own gun. They said they do not know if it was an accident or Harding shot himself on purpose.
San Francisco chief medical examiner Dr. Amy Hart said that the bullet believed to have killed Harding that was removed from his head was a .380-caliber bullet, which is inconsistent with the service ammunition used by San Francisco police.
Police said last week that they also found an unused .380-caliber bullet in Harding’s right jacket pocket.
Pointer said, “The truth seems to be far at hand” and he wants San Francisco police to release records, witness statements and other documents so that Harding’s family “can have the closure they deserve.”
Pointer said witnesses he has interviewed claim that Harding “never fired a shot” at police and “was in full sprint” away from police when he was shot and killed.
No weapon was found by police at the scene, but amateur video footage captured in the shooting’s aftermath showed a passerby picking up what police investigators believe was Harding’s gun and taking it from the area before police could establish the crime scene.
A cellphone and several bullet casings were also apparently taken from the scene, police said.
Pointer also alleged that San Francisco police have engaged in “a concerted attack on the character and reputation” of Harding, who allegedly had a criminal record as a juvenile in Seattle and was considered a person of interest in a recent homicide in that city.
Harding’s mother, Denika Chatman of Seattle, said, “I’m angry and hurt and I want justice done.”
Chatman said she does not know what happened when her son was killed.
She said he came to San Francisco recently because “he was going to meet his manager and get his career started” as a rap singer.
Chatman said Harding’s older brother has had a recording contract with a label in San Francisco for 10 years and wanted to help Harding get his career going.
Chatman said Harding planned to return to Seattle in the fall to attend a community college there.
She described her son as “a God-fearing person who loved the Lord” and attended a private Christian school.
“He was a very loving, caring and giving person and he loved his mother,” Chatman said.
Harding’s sister and several of his aunts and uncles joined Chatman at the news conference at the office that Pointe shares with Burris, who is out of town.
Several religious and community leaders from San Francisco and Oakland also participated, as did Cephus Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant III, the Hayward man who was fatally shot by a BART police officer at the Fruitvale station in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009.
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News