Witness believes man shot by SFPD was armed

July 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
On Sunday, crowds of angry people claimed San Francisco police officers shot and killed an unarmed man from behind in the Bayview District Saturday. But a bystander who shot video of the incident said he believes the man was armed.

The man has been identified as 19-year old Kenneth Harding, a parolee from Washington state. He's a person of interest in a murder case in Seattle last week; four people were shot including a pregnant woman who died from her injuries. As for Harding's role in Saturday's shooting in San Francisco's Bayview, a witness said he believes he was in fact armed, despite residents who say otherwise.

"We heard commotion, we went to the scene," said the witness.

The man doesn't want to be identified, but he says his video of the aftermath of Saturday's shooting in the Bayview answers a key question -- did the man who police shot and killed, have a gun? Police say he did. In fact, they say the man fired at them first while he was running away from them for not paying his fare on Muni. But Bayview residents have been claiming the man was unarmed.

"The boy did not have a gun. He did not have a gun," said a protestor.

The man who shot the video, however, said he and his friend spotted a gun on the ground about 25 feet from the man moments after the shooting. He said it was a small, silver handgun. His friend then saw a man in a gray and white striped hoodie pick it up and take off.

"Our initial reaction was, 'Oh my God, what are you doing?' and let's get out of here. We don't want no part of this. We don't want any retaliatory action or anything," said the witness.

The fact that the man in the gray and white hoodie may have picked up the gun explains why SFPD couldn't find it right away. Officers spent Saturday canvassing the neighborhood trying to find the weapon. But Sunday, Police Chief Greg Suhr said they believe it's been recovered.

"Luckily, someone else in the crowd took video of people picking up the firearm and officers have been able to track down the firearm and we believe we now have it in custody," said Suhr.

The witness hopes the question of whether police shot an unarmed man will now be put to rest. He says he posted his video on YouTube out of frustration over people speaking out without knowing the facts.

"It hurts people who are actually innocent and who are actually not at fault and it confuses the whole situation," said the witness.

Police wouldn't give too much detail as to how they recovered the gun, but they did say they found the weapon at a parolee's home.


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