Kenneth Harding's mother considers legal action

July 25, 2011 8:20:32 PM PDT
The family of a man who died while running from San Francisco police is considering legal action, even though the fatal shot apparently came from the man's own gun, not from police.

Kenneth Harding, 19, was shot in the head as he was running from police in the Bayview. Police say the evidence shows the fatal bullet was not fired by an officer.

Family members of Harding's have hired well-known Oakland lawyer John Burris. Burris' law firm held a news conference late Monday and they say they are on a mission of truth to seek answers about how Harding died. His mother flew in from Seattle to talk to the media.

"I'm angry and I'm hurt, and I want the truth and I want justice to be done," said Denika Chatman, Harding's mother.

Harding was killed on Saturday, July 16th after police said he fired on two officers who were on Third Street checking out Muni ticket evaders. Five days later, police made this surprising announcement after getting the ballistics tests results.

"We believe that the fatal wound on Mr. Harding's body was self inflicted," said SFPD Lt. Michael Biel.

After being shouted down at a town hall meeting in the Bayview, Police Chief Greg Suhr gave his theory on how Harding may have accidentally shot himself after he was hit in the leg by an officer returning fire.

"Apparently the officer shot and hit the suspect in the leg. So imagine if you would, an instant hamstring pain pull would cause the person to lurch and the gun [fired] entering the right side of the neck and lodged behind the cheek," said Suhr.

But there are some -- Harding's family included -- who believe police could be covering up the facts of the shooting.

"Based on police department's shifting stories, conflicting statements, allegations and claims and retractions that the truth seems to be far from at hand," said Adante Pointer, the family attorney.

Harding's family also says police are unfairly justifying his death by bringing up his rap sheet. Chatman says her son was going to college and was an aspiring rapper.

"He didn't want to sit around waiting the fall quarter to start, for him to start school. He wanted his music career to get up and going," said Chatman.

Late Monday, SFPD spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield said, "We've put out the facts as we believed them at the time, again leaving it open for as the investigation goes forward, we'll find out new information. There may be other witnesses, or other videos that come forth."

There are four separate investigations going on: one by the San Francisco Police Department into the officer-involved shooting, its internal affairs department has launched its own investigation, the Office of Citizen Complaints, and then the District Attorney's Office.

Earlier on Monday, the San Francisco police have received an all points bulletin from Seattle warning that Harding's brother may also be in the Bay Area. That unidentified brother is believed to be wanted for questioning in the death of a 50-year-old Washington man, but Seattle police refused to confirm that.


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