D.A.: Cop who shot fleeing black man in the back was ‘justified’

police brutality
police brutality

WARNING:  This police body cam video shown below is especially disturbing– and extremely graphic.

kevin seraaj
Kevin Seraaj, J.D., M.Div.

On the night of August 13, 50-year-old Patrick Harmon was pulled over for riding his bicycle without a tail light and crossing several lanes of traffic.  After the stop, police learned he had an outstanding warrant for failing to appear at a sentencing hearing after pleading guilty to aggravated assault.

While police were in the process of arresting and handcuffing him, Harmon bolted and began running away. He didn’t get far, however.  He was shot three times in the back.

The officer who shot him, Officer Clinton Fox, was charged in the shooting but after reviewing the evidence, the district attorney declined to prosecute.  He ruled the shooting justified.  How he came to that conclusion based on Fox’s statement to investigators and the body cam video is beyond all comprehension.

According to the police report, Fox told investigators: “Harmon pleaded with the officers not to go to jail. The officers took Mr. Harmon’s hands and placed them behind his back. As Mr. Harmon’s hands went behind his back, Mr. Harmon bolted from the officers and ran.”

At some point, the police report says, Harmon stopped running and turned around to face the pursuing officers while holding a knife.

“Fox said Mr. Harmon came at the officers with something in his hand. Officer Fox said he was terrified by how close Mr. Harmon was to the officers when Mr. Harmon stopped and turned toward them,” the report states. “Officer Fox said he feared if he didn’t immediately use deadly force, Mr. Harmon was going to stab him and/or the other officers.”

Investigators reported: “Officer Fox said that in 10 years of law enforcement and two military deployments, it was the scariest situation he had ever been in.”

The scariest situation he had ever been in.

After the decision by the district attorney not to prosecute was made public, police body cam video of the incident was released.  If the DA reviewed the same video file, it’s difficult to see how he came to accept Fox’s account as true, because what Fox said doesn’t line up with the body cam video.  But you be the judge.

Fox said Harmon turned toward them with a knife in his hand, and that being fearful for his life (#ABRACADABRA), he fired three shots.  But in the video, as soon as Harmon pulls away and begins to flee, Fox can be heard yelling “I’ll f**king shoot you!”   Harmon’s back is to the officers.  He is clearly running away from them.  There is no encounter as Fox describes.  Harmon is clearly visible in the video.  His back is to the officers.  Three bullets bring him to the ground.

Fox was clearly lying when he said he shot Harmon after the man turned toward him and the other two officers and threatened to cut them.

It is sad– but telling– that in this country, a large part of white America is more interested in the seeming disrespect of the American flag when people peacefully #TakeAKnee, than they are in police abuse of power visited upon black men every day that denies them their fundamental right to live.  So much for the blatant hypocrisy.  So much for the still anemic Constitution.

The law should never allow any person– black or white, young or old– to be gunned down by police unless the crime he or she is committing at the time of being shot is lawfully punishable by death.

A wise man once wrote that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Decisions like this further entrench the police in their absolute power to kill anyone, anywhere, for any reason whatsoever, just by waving their magic I-was-in-fear-for-my-life wand.  #ABRACADABRA.