Marisa Lagos, San Francisco Chronicle, July 22, 2011
After five days of heat over the fatal shooting of a fleeing suspect in the Bayview, San Francisco police on Thursday let loose a bombshell–the young man not only had a gun, officials said, but appears to have killed himself with it.
The bullet that killed 19-year-old Kenneth Wade Harding on Saturday came from a .380-caliber firearm, authorities announced, and a round of the same caliber was recovered from Harding’s jacket pocket.
Cmdr. Mike Biel, who heads investigations, said detectives now believe Harding fatally wounded himself as he fled from two police officers who were attempting to check whether he had a Muni ticket.
Police are still trying to find that weapon, which they believe was stolen from the crime scene.
Police said earlier that Harding tried to shoot at the two officers during the chase. Still, the death of Harding, a Washington state parolee wanted for questioning by Seattle police in connection with a July 13 killing there, sparked outrage in the Bayview district.
Earlier this week, police said lab tests revealed gunshot residue on Harding’s right hand, and that ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection and location system, showed that three guns were fired during a six-second period.
Police were unable to find a gun at the scene, but video taken by a bystander shows an object on the ground roughly 10 yards from where Harding fell wounded. Biel said a man in a hooded sweatshirt picked up a gun, shell casings and a cell phone and spirited them away from the scene.
Harding was released on parole in April in connection with charges that he tried to force a 14-year-old girl into prostitution in Seattle, and police there said he is also a person of interest in a shooting that killed 19-year-old Tanaya Gilbert and wounded three others.
The fatal shooting of Harding on a crowded street in broad daylight has angered many people. Some have said they don’t believe he was armed, while others have complained of a long history of poor relations between police and San Francisco’s African American community.
On Tuesday, 43 people were arrested during a protest that led to vandalism of a Muni station and, according to police, two assaults. On Wednesday, Police Chief Greg Suhr was booed offstage during a town hall meeting at the Bayview Opera House.