On July 25, the family of Kenneth Wade Harding, Jr. -- the 19-year-old who was killed in the Bayview by a gunshot wound after he ran from being detained for MUNI fare evasion by San Francisco police -- attended a press conference in Oakland at the law offices of John Burris.
News of Harding's criminal history quickly surfaced in the days following his death, with reports focusing on how the African American man from Seattle had served time in prison for attempting to promote prostitution, and had been named as a person of interest in connection with the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old Seattle woman.
Harding's mother, Denika Chatman, presented an alternative profile of her son, describing him as an independent person who cared for his family and dreamed of a music career as a rapper. Chatman said Harding had planned on attending Seattle Central Community College and would have turned 20 on Aug. 5. As for his criminal background and allegations that he violated his parole, "it doesn't have anything to do with what happened to him," she said.
Chatman and Pointer asserted that Harding was not in San Francisco because he was on the run. Instead, they said, he was there to visit with family and friends in the Bay Area and meet with his music manager. Chatman said Harding's older brother is signed on with a record label in San Francisco, but declined to say which label.
Attorney Adante Pointer called Harding's death "a tragedy and a shocking incident, which has brought us here seeking answers." While he did not directly address the police account of the shooting thus far -- that he was killed not by multiple rounds fired by San Francisco police officers, but a self-inflicted gunshot wound -- Pointer did express skepticism.
"Those stories continuously shift," Pointer said. "That's nothing that you can build any kind of trust or credibility with." He added, "This community is seeking some type of logical explanation as to what happened, as opposed to what amounts to be knee-jerk speculation."
Pointer said his office had met with five eyewitnesses so far and hoped to find more. "There are eyewitnesses, there are persons in that community who've said this young man never fired a shot," he said. "That's inconsistent with what the police have said ... let's find out what the truth is."
Pointer and Chatman were joined by members of Harding's extended family, as well as African American community leaders in the Bay Area including Nation of Islam minister Rev. Christopher Muhammad and Rev. Renard Allen of San Francisco's Third Baptist Church. Also present was Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant, the 20-year-old Hayward man who was fatally shot Jan. 1, 2009 by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in a case which prompted riots. The Law Offices of John Burris represented Grant's mother in a federal civil rights lawsuit against BART, striking a $1.3 million settlement with the transit agency in late June.
Video by Rebecca Bowe