Public outrage over shooting death in San Francisco's Bayview is misplaced 

Here in the land of easy outrage and protest, I hope it’s not too late to ask our fist-pumping agitators to occasionally get it right.

Like maybe express anger over the senseless shooting of 11-year-old Linda Ngo in the Western Addition last week by reputed gangbangers who recklessly fired bullets in the air.

Or perhaps you could work up a froth over the fact that BART police still carry firearms, and hold a rally calling for them to be re-stocked with pellet guns.

But I think it’s fair to say that it is past time to end the furor over Kenneth Wade Harding, the man who allegedly shot himself while running from San Francisco police, and for that matter, to reassess the entire Harding family.

There will always be a few who will use any incident involving police to raise hell and rail about past misconduct. Residents of the Bayview have a deep-seated mistrust of police that spilled over at a public gathering last week in which about 15 people out of more than 200 shouted down the gathered speakers and all but ended a chance for city officials to discuss the incident with concerned neighbors.

But as sad as it is that Harding died apparently from a self-inflicted wound from a gun that police said was removed by onlookers at the scene, the tale relayed by his mother and a family attorney of a hopeful rap star trying to turn his life around rings as hollow as an empty tin can.

Harding was a card-carrying criminal, a parolee with a fresh rap sheet reflecting a penchant for being a predator around teenage girls. The idea that his death was linked to not having a Muni ticket is ludicrous. He was being sought by police in connection with the July 13 shooting death of Tanaya Gilbert, 19, in south Seattle.

As a general rule, people don’t carry guns around as a fashion accessory. Pointing one at police is an almost certain doom scenario.

Harding’s mother, Denika Chatman, said the family is looking for answers about the incident, and when all the facts and ballistic tests have been gathered, I hope she gets them. But then it’s only fair that she can provide some answers about her boys as well, since trouble seems to cling to them like a lingering scent.

Early Wednesday, after eluding Seattle police for four days, Ondrell Harding, 21, was arrested as a suspect in the vicious beating death of a 50-year-old man. Police say the victim, who has not been publicly identified, was killed in front of his wife around 3 a.m. Saturday by a man who forced his way into their home.

Harding is being held without bail in King County Jail while the police investigation continues. One can only imagine what the response might have been if he had fled to San Francisco and police here had made the arrest.

There are always going to be trust issues with police in the Bayview and other high-crime communities, but the discussion still must involve the reality of criminal behavior. Bad people tend to find themselves in constant contact with the law.

Police Chief Greg Suhr told me the only way he can soothe concerns in the Bayview is through “transparency
and engagement’’ and that he intends to continue meeting with residents there as long as necessary.

Yet the case just points out that a rush to judgment is a certain formula for mixing up the facts. No matter how many pseudo-anarchists show up at a hipster park to chant about unfair treatment from police, it’s not going to remove the gun residue from Kenneth Harding’s hand or explain why he had a .380-caliber round in his jacket, just like the one police said was recovered from his head.

And if Chatman wants to hire an attorney to defend her family’s honor, she’s probably going to need more than one.

The Harding brothers are not going to be mistaken for the Hardy Boys anytime soon. That may be lost on the protesters who marched in the Castro to vent their anger about a shooting in the Bayview, but it’s clear from their path that they were lost anyway.

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Ken Garcia

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