OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – San Francisco police shot a black teen-ager to death because he ran away when they asked him if he’d paid his train fare, the teen’s mother claims in Federal Court.
Denika Chatman sued the City and County of San Francisco, its police chief, and Officers Matthew Lopez and Richard Hastings, on her own behalf and for her late son, Kenneth Harding Jr., who was 19 when he was shot to death in the afternoon of July 16, 2011.
Chatman says in her complaint that her son was getting off the T-car train at the Oakdale/Palou Muni Station around 4:30 p.m. when Lopez and Hastings “inquired about whether Harding had paid his Muni fare.”
The complaint continues: “Initially Harding walked away from the officers and after putting some distance between them and himself, he began to run. As Harding fled, Officers Lopez and Hastings unholstered their firearms and opened fire upon the fleeing young man. At least one of the officers’ bullets struck him. Onlookers watched the scene unfold, and witnessed the shooting.
“Harding fell to the ground critically wounded from the gunshot injuries. The officers did not provide any medical treatment or care to Harding and instead left him writhing in pain with blood gushing out of his neck.”
Chatman says her son “endured unnecessary and increased pain and suffering due to the acts and/or omissions of the officers. Harding ultimately bled to death as officers and witnesses watched.”
Chatman says she “made diligent and reasonable attempts” to “obtain information about the incident in an effort to ascertain the facts surrounding what, in fact, took place. The City and County of San Francisco largely rejected and ignored plaintiff’s attempts to obtain access to the sought-after information.”
She claims that she “and the community at large are understandably concerned and critical of the San Francisco Police Department’s handling of the incident as the SFPD issued conflicting statements and retracted many of the theories it made to the public as to how Harding was killed during the days and weeks following the incident.”
Chatman says her son “was not in possession of a gun when he fled from the police, nor did he fire a gun at Officers Lopez and Harding. Witnesses to the incident claim they never saw Harding brandish, fire, or attempt to discard a gun.”
She claims the SFPD’s refusal to discipline Lopez and Hastings for shooting an unarmed man “demonstrates the existence of an entrenched culture, policy or practice of promoting, tolerating and/or ratifying with deliberate indifference the making of improper detentions and arrests, the use of excessive and/or deadly force, and the fabrication of official reports to cover up defendants’ … misconduct.”
She also accuses Lopez and Hastings of being “motivated out of prejudice” toward her son, who was “readily recognizable as African American.”
Chatman seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, excessive force, deliberate indifference to medical needs, and assault and battery, and funeral and burial expenses.
She is represented by John Burris of Oakland.