The San Francisco Police Department defended itself Monday against claims two cops fatally shot an unarmed man in the Bayview district last weekend, releasing evidence suggesting the suspect had first fired at them.
Kenneth Harding, 19, of Seattle was killed while fleeing from two cops conducting a Muni fare inspection near the Third Street and Oakdale Avenue stop. His death sparked outrage among people who watched the videotaped aftermath of the incident, some of whom say police shot an unarmed man and refused to let anyone near him as he bled to death.
But at Monday’s news conference, police Chief Greg Suhr presented evidence indicating Harding fired the first shot as he ran through the crowded Mendell Plaza. The evidence included results of a ShotSpotter gunshot-location system used to determine when and where firearms are discharged.
According to data from ShotSpotter — which was deployed in the Bayview in 2008 — three separate firearms unloaded 10 shots over six seconds. The first shot was one of two fired from where Harding was located, police said. Two to six seconds later, eight more shots were fired from where the officers were located.
Suhr discussed the department’s initial inability to locate Harding’s gun and cautious approach after he was shot. Harding’s gun flew 15 feet in front of him after he was shot, Suhr said. Yet officers did not see it through the crowd and believed he was still armed, so they kept their guns drawn until Harding stopped moving and they could render medical assistance, Suhr said.
Witnesses later told police they saw Harding shoot at cops and that a passer-by picked up his .45-caliber pistol and walked away with it. Suhr said video posted on YouTube shows a person picking up the gun after a crowd surrounded Harding’s body.
The chief said the gun was eventually recovered through tips that led officers to a Bayview home. Suhr said police are confident the gun was Harding’s, but are conducting ballistics and DNA testing.
The chief said he will present that evidence at a meeting Wednesday at the Bayview Opera House.
In the wake of the July 3 BART police shooting of Charles Hill and the lingering anger surrounding BART’s 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant III in Oakland, Harding’s death has further divided police and members of the Bayview community.
Community members held an earlier news conference Monday near the sight of the shooting. They demanded the FBI investigate the incident and that District Attorney George Gascón have nothing to do with the case because he is a former police chief of The City.
“I don’t care if this kid was like the chain-saw massacre poster child,” activist Mesha Irizarry said. “You don’t die like a rabid dog with nobody helping you.”
Both officers, at least one of whom is black, were placed on administrative leave. Investigations by the SFPD, the Office of Citizen Complaints and the District Attorney’s Office are under way.
Man killed by police was convicted pimp in Seattle
Kenneth Harding, the 19-year-old killed by San Francisco police Saturday, was a pimp accused of making an underage girl perform oral sex on him and later convicted of demanding that girl to earn him “ho’ money” in Seattle, court documents show.
Harding, a Seattle resident, was fatally shot by two cops in the Bayview after he fired at them, police said. He had been detained for allegedly evading a Muni fare about 4:45 p.m. near Third Street and Oakdale Avenue.
Harding also was a person of interest in a quadruple shooting last week in South Seattle that killed 19-year-old Tanaya Gilbert and her unborn child.
He was released in April from a one-year prison sentence after a conviction for first-degree promotion of prostitution, police said.
Harding’s rap sheet also includes a robbery conviction.
The 14-year-old girl told police she was stranded on a Seattle street after she refused to prostitute for Harding on “the track” near the Seattle Center, a sports and entertainment venue. He had commanded her to charge $50 for oral sex and $100 for intercourse, and gave her several condoms, according to the girl’s account. She told police she said no, the report said.
Harding told her “she was either going to make ‘Ho’ money and get a ride back or he was going to leave her there,” the report said. Harding stranded her there, it said.
The same girl’s earlier accusation regarding oral sex was eventually dismissed, police said.