Yesterday at civil rights attorney John Burris‘ office in Oakland, attorney Adante Pointer, speaking for Kenneth Harding’s family, questioned the police account of the shooting death of Harding, who was killed during a foot chase with officers in the Bayview on July 16. Harding’s mother, Denika Chatman, 38, from Seattle, also spoke, defending her son’s character and asking the public for donations. Other Harding relatives from both the Bay Area and Seattle were also present.

SF Police Chief Greg Suhr being chased by the media at a Bayview community meeting about the shooting. (Photo: Joshua Johnson, KQED)

Pointer said he thought police accounts of the incident had changed too many times for the department to be credible. He didn’t cite specific developments, but initially police thought they might have recovered Harding’s gun from the scene, only to later announce it wasn’t the right caliber. And last week, the medical examiner said the bullet lodged in Harding’s head was the wrong caliber to have been fired from an officer’s gun, leading police to assert that Harding may have shot himself with his own (still unrecovered) weapon.

Here are the main points from the press conference:

  • Pointer said his office had talked to over five eyewitness, and “more than one” had refuted the police’s version of what happened, saying they never saw Harding with a gun. He asked for other witnesses to come forward, and called on police to give Harding’s family access to all evidence and investigatory reports for review.
  • Pointer refuted the idea that Harding was in the Bay Area on the run from police. Chatman, Harding’s mother, said Harding was in San Francisco to see his brother’s record producer to discuss a music career. She said he’d been to the Bay Area many times to visit friends and family.
  • Neither one would respond to questions about any criminal activity on Harding’s part, saying it was irrelevant to how he died. Harding was on parole for being a pimp to an underage girl, and was wanted for questioning in connection to the shooting death in Seattle of a 19-year-old girl.

    Yesterday, it was reported that the SFPD said it had received an APB for Harding’s brother, in connection with the same shooting. Neither Chatman nor Pointer would respond to questions about this report. (Update Jul 27: Harding’s brother is a suspect in the murder of a 50-year-old man in Seattle last Saturday.)

  • Pointer said there was a “concerted attack” on Harding’s character and reputation. Chatman called Harding “God-fearing,” “caring,” and “loving.” She said Harding was due to go to school in the fall at Seattle Central Community College.
  • Pointer asked for donations from the public in order to transport Harding’s body back to Seattle and to pay for his funeral.

Audio and partial, edited transcripts:

Attorney Adante Pointer on the Kenneth Harding shooting

From opening statement

We know based upon the police department’s shifting stories, conflicting statements, allegations and claims and retractions, that the truth seems to be far from at hand.

When you have a situation where there’s videotape and there are many witnesses who come out and say that it happened a particular way, and you have the police department that sets forth allegations and claims that it happened another way, but as the days go on and more investigation takes place, those stories continuously shift. So what we have are explanations and excuses built on a foundation of shifting sands. And that’s nothing that you can build any type of trust or credibility with in a situation as critical as this.

And so what we call on once again is for the San Francisco Police Department and all law enforcement agencies who have been involved in this investigation, to make available to the family, to my law firm, to the community, the fruits of that investigation so that we ourselves may evaluate what took place and draw our conclusions, and give this grieving mother, this mourning family, this community that has suffered for way too long, and this community who is needing and seeking some type of logical explanation as to what happened as opposed to what amounts to knee-jerk speculation.

And so we ask once again that the coroner’s investigative report, medical examiner reports, witness statements, any surveillance video, computer-automated dispatch 911 calls, the GSR test results, that these things be made available to this family so that they may have the closure that they are entitled to.

We are also here to address what amounts to a concerted attack upon the young man’s character, upon his reputation, and that has been leaked out and put into the media for a person who is no longer here to defend himself. A person who despite his background, does not justify being killed in the manner of which it took place.

What we are here to offer and to share: This is a young man who was loved by his family. He had many relatives here in the Bay Area. We do not agree and we refute and reject the claim that he was here on the run, and we want to make it known that this was a young man who was actually enrolled in college, was expected to go to college in the fall, and his life was cut short needlessly.

We know that there were potentially hundreds of people on the scene who saw what took place. We need them to find their voice, to find their courage, to contact my office, these community leaders, so that we can get this family to the truth, which is what they deserve.

On the question of whether police could have rendered medical aid to Harding after he was shot

For those officers on the scene, you would have expected them to administer some type of life-saving care. Whether that would have been to compress the wound, or to provide some comfort and dignity, as opposed to what we all have trag ically seen, which is a young man gasping for air, a young man bleeding to death on the sidewalk in a public spectacle type of way. (Note: See our previous post addressing that issue.)

On the police assertion that Harding may have shot himself

If I had trusted in all the other accounts, where would I be today? I don’t put much credence in that at this point in time. I want to be able to have the documents so that we can evaluate and make a decision for ourselves, as opposed to relying on what may be just another allegation that may be ultimately rescinded and trotted out for the public to believe.

On whether Harding shot at police

There are eyewitnesses in the community who claim this young man never fired a shot and that he was in full sprint ahead. That’s inconsistent with what the police said.

Denika Chatman, Kenneth Harding’s mother, on the shooting

On her feelings about the incident
I’m angry and I’m hurt and I want the truth and I want justice to be done.

What was Harding doing in the Bay Area?

He was going to meet his manager to get his music career started. He didn’t want to sit around waiting for fall quarter to start. He wanted his music career to get up and going.

Why did he run from police when stopped during a fare evasion check?

I can’t answer that.

What’s his musical background?

Rap. He has an older brother who’s in a 10-year recording contract. He often appears on a lot of his brother’s songs and performs with his brother. At this point he wanted his own career.

My older son, his record label is in San Francisco so he was trying to reach out to get the same type of deal.

Which label?

I don’t want to say at this time.

Describe your son

Kenneth was a god-fearing person. He loved the Lord. He had been raised in church all of his life. He grew up in private Christian school. He was very independent. He was very loving, caring, giving. He loved his family. And he loved his mother.

On Harding’s ties to the Bay Area

We have lived here back and forth for many years. He has plenty of family here and he also has plenty of friends here. He was here to meet his manager but at the same time he did visit with family and friends.

On his conviction as a juvenile sex offender and whether he Harding was violating his parole.

It doesn’t have anything to do with what happened that day.

Adante Pointer: No matter his criminal background, that is not a means in and of itself to be shot down.

On donations

I would like make a plea to the public. Kenneth has a donation account set up through any Wells Fargo. You go into any branch and give his name, Kenneth Harding, Jr., and let them know it’s a Washington account. Or go to his facebook page.

What are the donations for?

To help to get my son home back to Washington as well as his burial.

Here’s some video of the press conference from the SF Bay Guardian:

Audio: Mother of Kenneth Harding Defends Son, Attorney Slams SFPD Account of Shooting 27 July,2011Jon Brooks

  • Fred Marks

    Nice, the family is looking for a payday!! Now the second son is wanted for beating a man to death in front of his wife on Saturday and now the “mother” is looking for answers!!! Look in the miror you horrible parent. All these greedy scum need to crawl back under the rock they came from.

  • Mace

    @Fred u should reserve ur statements until this case is over. How can u call this woman a bad parent? What did she do wrong to u? If u have kids u better hope society doesn’t taint them. This situation can happen to anyone of us. I believe that this kid was doing everything right that day. Until SFPD murdered him. College students normally don’t have a whole lot of money. $2 for bus fare is ridiculous for them to pay several times a day. Kenneth is not here to defend himself, so with that being said I hope this family gets closure on this situation. As far his brother being wanted for questioning, the police need to be careful who they are poiting fingers at for murders, This will open up even more lawsuits against them.

  • I believe that this kid was doing everything right that day. His mother very much loves him. That’s why she is defending her son at this stage. Mother can’t leave her child whatever crimes they were commit. It’s a brilliant article. Thanks for allocation.

  • Massyk

    Maybe his mom did the best she could, but where’s his dad?

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