Police say they've recovered gun used by Harding

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The San Francisco Police Department issued a statement this afternoon announcing that the gun that fired the fatal shot at Kenneth Wade Harding Jr. has been found.

"After a weeklong community effort, a neighborhood resident led officers from Bayview Police Station to the gun used by Kenneth Harding," the SFPD statement says. "The gun, an AMT .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol, was matched through ballistic tests conducted by the San Francisco Police Department Crime Lab," the official announcement goes on. "These tests confirmed that this was the same gun that fired the fatal .380 caliber bullet." 

The police describe the weapon as a "small silver and black handgun," and notes that it was "seen on the widely viewed cell phone video of the incident" and "picked up from the crime scene by an individual during the chaotic aftermath of the shooting." 

One YouTube video showing the scene of the aftermath is titled, "Aftermath of Bayview gun battle in San Francisco," and it has had 96,897 views so far.

At around 1 minute and 23 seconds into that video, an individual in a gray hooded sweatshirt reaches down and picks up an object off the sidewalk (which doesn't look like a gun), but at another point in the clip, a gun-shaped object can be seen lying on the ground.

Lt. Troy Dangerfield, of the SFPD's media relations unit, would not say whether the man in the hooded sweatshirt had anything to do with recovering the gun. Nor would he say whether an arrest had been made when the gun was turned over to police. "I can't get into who turned over the gun, or whether that's where we got the gun from," he said, but asserted that ballistics testing had confirmed that it was the gun that fired the shot.

"We're not speaking as to whether fingerprints are on it," he added when asked if Harding's fingerprints had been detected on the firearm. He said he did not know whether Harding's cell phone had been recovered.

There are four separate investigations relating to the officer-involved shooting that occurred in connection with Harding's death, Dangerfield said. They are being carried out by the District Attorney, the Office of Citizen Complaints, SFPD Homicide Unit and SFPD Internal Affairs.

Asked why SFPD officers did not move in quickly to snap up an unsecured weapon lying on the ground if a suspect had just fired and a crowd of alarmed bystanders was forming around them, Dangerfield said that the police had to prioritize officer safety -- and in this case, he asserted, that meant keeping their weapons trained on a suspect who could still potentially pull out a gun and shoot at them. According to training protocol, "crime scene preservation" is a lower priority, he said. Asked if officers were trained to shoot to kill, he said, "we don't shoot to kill, we shoot to stop the threat."

Dangerfield went on to say that the video in which Harding is shown to still be moving while police stand with weapons trained on him would make a great police training video. "You do not remove yourself from the target until the target is no longer a threat to you," he said, indicating that a suspect who is still moving is still perceived as a threat.

However, it was this aspect of the widely viewed video -- that police continued to stand with weapons trained on Harding rather than calling for medical assistance after he'd been shot -- that seemed to most inflame residents and protesters who've condemned the police response in the aftermath.

Dangerfield confirmed that data from SpotShotter revealed that a single bullet was fired, and then multiple rounds fired in succession 1.9 seconds later. The explanation that police have given for this, he confirmed, was that Harding fired a single shot and then police opened fire.

Assuming it's true that Harding shot himself, as police have said, this suggests that the two police officers on the scene responded to a suspect shooting himself by firing eight rounds, just one of which entered through the leg. Asked why officers would respond to a self-inflicted shot in that way, Dangerfield said, "If you are a police officer and you're running and chasing ... and then shots are fired, what do you think?" He emphasized, "They're trained to return fire."

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