San Francisco News

Bayview uneasy following SFPD shooting

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Police release audio they say proves suspect shot first Kenneth Harding

San Francisco police are playing video and audio evidence that they say clearly shows the man they shot over the weekend had a gun, and shot at them first. Kenneth Harding was on parole from the state of Washington when he had a run-in with police on Saturday.

Police Chief Greg Suhr used to be captain of the police station in the Bayview District and is well known in the neighborhood. He says the shooting will be a huge setback to community policing efforts until the department can prove its version of events.

"They're going to continue to kill our youth if we don't step up and be accounted for," a speaker at a rally said.

It is tense in the Bayview following the killing of 19-year-old Kenneth Harding. The Seattle man was shot to death by police as they tried to stop him for failing to pay his Muni fare on Saturday. Officers say he fired on them as he ran away, but there is skepticism and criticism in the community.

"You can wound a man, and if his gun falls away from him, if he has a gun on him, that's fine, but to continue shooting him, it almost looks like mass murder to people out here," Double Rock Baptist Church Minister Keevin O'Brien said.

But Suhr says amateur video is helping with the investigation. He says it clearly shows a gun on the scene. It has been recovered, though ballistic tests must determine if Harding was carrying it.

"And the gun that appears in, outwardly to look like the same firearm that was on the ground, however, I can't confirm that that indeed is the same weapon," Suhr said.

Suhr says they are still looking for the man in the striped hoodie who initially picked up the gun, as well as for shell casings and a missing cellphone. The chief hopes someone will turn them over.

"Plenty of Bayview community members have come forward and are helping us get the truth out about this case," Suhr said.

The police department also provided audio of the department's sophisticated ShotSpotter system that picks up sounds and gives the location of gunshots. That system picked up 10 shots fired in a six-second period. They say it bolsters their account that the suspect shot at them first.

"There's a time of 1.9 seconds between the first shot and the second shot. It is that time period, that we believe, of when the first shot was fired by the suspect and the officers then were in a position to identify and respond accordingly to being fired upon," said Police Cmdr. Mikail Ali.

There are three separate investigations into Saturday's shooting, and as they're being conducted, San Francisco police commissioner Joe Marshall is asking for calm.

"I don't like people jumping to conclusions before they know exactly what happened. And that's what we're trying to bring to light," said police commissioner Joe Marshall.

Investigators say Harding arrived in San Francisco the day before the shootout. In Washington, he had been convicted in 2008 of assaulting a bus driver and in 2010 for promoting prostitution by pimping a teenage girl. He served 22 months in prison for that crime. He was a person of interest in the July 13 murder of 19-year-old Tanaya Gilbert from Seattle, whose funeral is Friday. With Harding's death, Gilbert's family fears they'll never have the answers they're looking for as to why the Seattle teenager was gunned down as she sat in a car with friends.

"They would've preferred to ask him, you know, like, 'why or was it really an accident or not?' You don't know if the person is going to tell the truth or not, but you still want to ask them," Tameka Greer, Gilbert's relative said.

"She was my baby, my angel, I miss her," the victim's mother, Trina Bankston, said.

Suhr will hold a community meeting on Wednesday at the Bayview Opera House at 4705 Third Street at 6 p.m.

The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave, standard procedure following an officer-involved shooting.

ABC7's Lilian Kim contributed to his report.

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shooting, crime, SFPD, bayview hunters point, muni, san francisco news, carolyn tyler
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