San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials met this afternoon with community leaders who are concerned over the handling of the fatal police shooting of a 19-year-old man in the Bayview District on Saturday, but many attendees left unsatisfied with the answers they received.
Kenneth Harding Jr. allegedly ran from police and shot at officers who attempted to detain him while conducting fare enforcement at a San Francisco Municipal Railway light-rail stop at Third Street and Palou Avenue at about 4:45 p.m. Saturday.
Two officers returned fire, wounding Harding, who was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead that evening.
Harding, a Seattle resident, was a person of interest in a shooting in that city last Wednesday that killed a 19-year-old pregnant woman and injured three other people, police said.
He was on parole in Washington after serving part of a 22-month sentence for attempting to promote the prostitution of a 14-year-old girl, and was violating the terms of his parole by being in San Francisco, according to police.
Amateur video footage of the aftermath of Saturday’s exchange between Harding and the officers was posted online and showed that he did not receive medical treatment immediately after the shooting despite several officers being in the area, and some critics have questioned whether Harding even had a gun or shot at police.
The shooting has triggered several rallies around the city in the past few days, including one that started this evening in Dolores Park and has led to about 150 people marching through the city.
Police said one of the videos showed a passerby picking up what investigators believe is Harding’s gun and took it from the area before police could find it. A gun has since been found at a local parolee’s house, but police have not confirmed whether that was the gun involved in the shooting.
However, today police said that analysis of evidence collected from Harding’s right hand revealed gunshot residue supporting statements from the officers and several eyewitnesses that he fired at the them prior to being shot.
Lee, joined by other police and city officials, met at City Hall with local religious and community leaders to discuss the shooting. Members of the media were not allowed into the meeting.
Lee said he wanted to “provide every opportunity to fully explain what (police) have uncovered as the evidence, and make sure people base their views at least on the facts as we know it.”
However, some people who were in the meeting said they left dissatisfied with what was said.
Geoffrea Morris, a local community organizer, said Lee did not wait around “to hear one public comment … I thought this meeting was going to be productive, but where do we go from here?”
Chris Jackson, who serves as a trustee on the San Francisco Community College Board, said “they were basically talking at us” and said “I feel my time was wasted” because he said city officials offered no solutions to prevent similar cases from happening in the future.
Police Chief Greg Suhr, Supervisor Malia Cohen and other city officials are holding a town hall meeting Wednesday night at the Bayview Opera House to address the shooting.
Cohen, speaking during a break at the Board of Supervisors’ regular meeting this afternoon, said she plans to call for a reevaluation of the Police Department’s presence on Muni’s T-Third line and would look into making grief counselors available for people who witnessed the shooting. Those were two of the requests made by community leaders.
The Rev. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was also at today’s meeting at City Hall.
He said the shooting, and the reaction to it, is the result of a long history of poverty and mistreatment of people living in the southeast part of the city.
“What we see there is pain and anger and frustration and mistrust, and as long as we have that kind of a climate, it makes it unwieldy and most difficult for us to be at ease,” Brown said. “We’re always on the edge.”
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News