SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A man who was thought to have died from an officer-involved shooting in San Francisco last weekend appears instead to have been killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound, investigators revealed Thursday.
Kenneth Harding Jr., a 19-year-old Seattle resident, allegedly ran from officers who had attempted to detain him Saturday for fare evasion at a San Francisco Municipal Railway light-rail stop at Third Street and Palou Avenue.
Police had originally said Harding had turned to his left while running and fired at the officers, who fired several shots in return and fatally struck him.
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KCBS’ Tim Ryan Reports:
However, the bullet believed to have killed Harding was removed from his head by the medical examiner, who discovered it was a .380-caliber bullet, which is not consistent with the service ammunition used by San Francisco police.
The bullet had entered his body from the right side of his neck before lodging in his head, chief medical examiner Dr. Amy Hart said.
Police said they also found an unused .380-caliber bullet in Harding’s right jacket pocket.
“We believe the fatal wound on Mr. Harding’s body was self-inflicted,” said police Cmdr. Mike Biel, who said it was still unclear whether the wound was accidental.
Many questions still remain, however, about what happened out in the Bayview that day.
No weapon was found by police at the scene, but amateur video footage taken in the aftermath of the shooting showed a passerby picking up what investigators believe was Harding’s gun and taking it from the area before police could establish the crime scene.
A cellphone and several bullet casings were also apparently taken from the scene, police said.
A .45-caliber gun was later found at a local parolee’s house that investigators initially believed was Harding’s gun, but the new ballistic evidence has shown that not to be the case.
Biel said police are still seeking the man who picked up the gun, as well as the firearm, and said the department is offering a $1,000 reward for anyone with information that will help to recover the gun.
Harding was considered a person of interest in a shooting in Seattle last week that killed a 19-year-old pregnant woman and injured three other people. Biel said he did not know whether the weapon used in that shooting was consistent with the .380-caliber bullets found in the San Francisco case.
Harding was also shot in the leg, Hart said, but the bullet passed through and has not been recovered, so investigators do not know whether that wound was from a shot by the officers.
The shooting has triggered several protests around the city since last weekend, including one Tuesday that led to 45 people being arrested.
Critics of the shooting have said the video footage shows Harding did not receive medical treatment immediately after the shooting despite several officers being in the area, and some have even questioned whether he had a gun or fired it at police.
President of NAACP Amos Brown is calling for calm.
“We need another party to review this whole mess,” Brown said in a phone interview with KCBS. “And it may come to the point of the FBI, US Marshall, and the Justice Department getting involved.”
KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:
At a town hall meeting held at the Bayview Opera House on Wednesday, police Chief Greg Suhr tried to address about 300 community members but was shouted down by the angry crowd and the meeting was stopped early.
Biel said Thursday, “I understand how the community feels. However, our investigation is based on total facts.”
He said anyone with information in the case is encouraged to call the Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or the homicide detail at (415) 553-1145.
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