Police Chief Greg Suhr was met with a hail of boos, jeers and curses by members of the Bayview community Wednesday night, prompting an early end to a planned dialogue about Saturday’s fatal shooting of an armed parolee by officers.
Police fatally shot Kenneth Wade Harding, Jr., 19, of Seattle late Saturday afternoon near Third Street and Oakdale Avenue after they said Harding bolted from a nearby Muni platform when they tried to detain him for evading a fare. Harding turned and fired at officers, who fired back, killing him, police said.
Harding had a prior conviction in Washington state for pimping a 14-year-old girl and was wanted for questioning in connection with a quadruple shooting in South Seattle last week that left a 19-year-old woman dead, according to police.
The shooting has sparked increasingly violent protests in The City, the most recent taking place Tuesday evening in the Mission and Castro districts, resulting in 43 arrests. Some in the community have refused to believe that Harding had a gun, and have accused officers of not letting anyone near him as he bled to death.
Before a packed auditorium Wednesday at the Bayview Opera House — mere feet from the scene of the shooting — Suhr attempted to discuss the incident and take questions, but was repeatedly shouted down by loud voices in the crowd. Organizers attempted to quiet them and pleaded for calm. Others in the crowd cheered Suhr, a former Bayview station captain, and begged for him to be heard.
“I cannot tell you how badly I feel, as captain of Bayview for two years — I love the community,” Suhr started to say before he was again drowned out. Men began to scream that police and city leaders were liars.
“They don’t give us any opportunity,” one man shouted. “They just give us a basketball, and guns and drugs.” Another person held a sign: “A Badge is Not a License to Kill!”
After about 90 minutes, police abandoned the meeting, leaving only a few voices in the community to speak among themselves.
On his way out, Suhr told reporters that he was disappointed with the way the evening unfolded, but he promised to try again at a later date.
Bayview Supervisor Malia Cohen called the attempted dialogue “the downside of democracy.”
“You have a community that are hurting, that are very raw and angered and disappointed,” Cohen said.
Minister Kevin O’Brien of Double Rock Baptist Church in the Bayview, an event organizer, said years of community frustration over unsolved murders, police shootings and “overaggressiveness” toward residents simply boiled over.
“They feel like they’re getting a smoke signal,” O’Brien said. “They’re just not ready. Everybody is in an uproar.”