SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A police shooting that stirred community outcry and street protests took a stunning turn Thursday when investigators said they now believe a 19-year-old Washington parolee being sought for questioning in a Seattle murder fatally shot himself in the neck.

Kenneth Harding died Saturday in what San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr previously described as a shootout with police in which Harding fired the first shot.

However, police Cmdr. Mike Biel said Thursday that preliminary autopsy results showed the caliber of the bullet that killed 19-year-old Kenneth Harding did not match the caliber used by police.

“We believe that the fatal wound on Mr. Harding’s body was self-inflicted,” Biel said.

John Sanchez, a criminalist at the San Francisco Crime Lab, said the .380-caliber bullet found in Harding’s head was not consistent with the.40-caliber guns issued to San Francisco police.

“The bullet could not have been fired from any department-issued firearm,” Sanchez said.

Medical personnel found an unfired .380-caliber bullet in Harding’s right jacket pocket, but the gun itself was not recovered, Biel said.

“We want to take this opportunity to reach out to the community in locating the correct weapon,” Biel said. “We believe the weapon that we are looking for is a .380-caliber handgun.”

A gun recovered by police late Saturday as part of the investigation was a .45-caliber pistol and could not have fired the fatal shot, police said.

The only other wound to Harding was a gunshot to his left leg, according to Chief Medical Examiner Amy Hart.

Authorities had not determined whether Harding shot himself on purpose or by accident, police said.

Harding was the main person of interest in last week’s South Seattle shooting death of 19-year-old Tanaya Gilbert, Seattle police said. A Seattle police spokesman said he did not have information on the caliber of the gun used in the shooting of Gilbert. No weapon was recovered in that case, Seattle police Detective Mark Jamieson said.

In April, Harding was released from a Washington state prison after he served 22 months for attempting to promote prostitution involving a 14-year-old girl in King County.

Harding had initially been stopped by police in a routine check for fare-beaters on the city’s light-rail train system, police said after Saturday’s shooting.

Police said Tuesday that gunshot residue on Harding’s right hand backed officers’ accounts that Harding had fired the first shot, as did audio of the shots captured by a gunshot-detection system used by San Francisco police.

On Tuesday, 43 people were arrested in a raucous rush-hour march to protest Harding’s death at the hands of what all believed at the time was police.

On Wednesday night, Suhr was shouted down at a town hall meeting in the city’s Bayview neighborhood a short distance from where the shooting took place.

Keevin O’Brien, a minister who co-organized Wednesday’s meeting, said he was still trying to process Thursday’s developments.

“Nonetheless, we have a dead young man that could’ve probably changed his life if the police had gotten to him sooner,” O’Brien said. “This should not have happened the way it did.”

O’Brien said the Bayview community is going to have a hard time with the findings.

“They’re not going to believe this,” O’Brien said. “They’re so broken and hurt by what they already saw. This is going to be hard to digest.”

Biel said Thursday that he also understands likely cynicism in the community.

“I understand how the community feels, however, our investigation is based on total fact. That’s what we have now,” Biel said.

O’Brien said he planned on going out in the community Thursday evening to “check its pulse.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (27)
  1. hedidtherightthingforonce says:

    Mr. Harding, the taxpayers thank you.

    1. god help us says:

      SF just doesn’t want anymore negative publicity especially on the heals of the oscar grant case in which the officer walk free. Why can’t the truth just be the truth, right is right wrong is wrong w/ o color being involved. just saying

  2. Mace says:

    HE DID NOT HAVE A GUN…LOL Nice try tho! Everybody saw the video on youtube. The police killed this kid, He was shot at 7 times. This is B.S. If he’s running with NO GUN, it’s highly unlikely he shot himself in the head. This was cold blooded murder. The Police officers involved need to be arraigned. Straight cover up. This was over $2.00 SMDH

    1. walter sobchek says:

      I saw the gun in the video 00:15

  3. Sid says:

    Shot 7 times huh? The medical examiner—someone with actual PROOF–disagrees.

    1. Whitey says:

      Just because the medical examiner says doesn’t mean its true MORON, watch the video I D I O T! Typical DUMMY, never see for himself, depends on others.

  4. Mace says:

    Exactly a medical examiner can be paid off, Family needs to have an independent autopsy! This is bananas HOW DO U SHOOT yourself in head running from the police over $2 bus fare? LMFAO! I’m sure some attorney is licking his chops on this case

  5. Derek says:

    Act like a fool….Die like a fool

    1. Mike says:

      Be careful u say…U might be next LOL

  6. Mace says:

    The video does NOT lie

  7. Frank Romo says:

    Would you run away from the cops, if you hadn’t done anything? This guy had shot and killed a pregnant woman, I guess Karma caught up to him and tapped him on his narrow ass…what about that poor woman, where’s the outrage for her? This guy was a piece of work who wouldn’t had hesitated shooting another person. Get over it!

    1. Mace says:

      NO HE DID NOT…If he didn’t have $2 for bus fare how in the hell did he get to Seattle, Wa? LOL U dummy!!! The girl that was killed in Seattle, was murdered by her boy friend *(The baby’s daddy)* now what your typing or have facts.

  8. Frank Romo says:

    I did get the facts, I read the newspaper story from the Seattle news. Now, it seems he got freaked when the police stopped him and he ran away like The Man he was, he proved to be a brain trust, you live by the gun, well, you can guess the rest…

    1. Mace says:

      I live in Seattle FOOL LOL I see u believe everything u read, instead everything u see.

      1. timatoe says:

        And yet you don’t believe what you see. You claim there was no gun, but oddly enough even the video you posted labels the gun right there.

        I’m sure in your ignorant little world the Police just randomly select some poor fool on the street, kill him with a gun none of them carry, leave the gun laying on the ground where some other thug will pick it up, have an independent pathologist find one bullet in the body (although you claim seven) and everybody involved and actually there on the same page with the same story. Well everyone except you who from Seattle has all the info that everyone else missed.

  9. Tbone says:

    I guess he didn’t try to pimp a 14 year old girl either and was also wrongly convicted of that. How does so much bad luck follow one lone saint?

    1. Mace says:

      Since u don’t have a brain…he was 17 going on 18 when it happened, the girl lied and said she was 16. He did his time, and put it behind him. Now if this happens to your kid, I’ll be on here typing the same BS your typing. KARMA comes full circle! U folks are sickening, any time u celebrate a murder, speaks volumes.

  10. Carrie says:

    I’m glad he’s dead. He was a thug and a loser.

    1. Carrie The Loser says:

      Kill yourself loser

  11. Lex says:

    Yeah right just like shooting yourself in the back of the head with a shotgun TWICE is a suicide. Like binding legs and arms and hanging a body from the porch is a suicide. Like duct-taping your legs and arms and cutting your own wrist with no blood and shooting yourself in the head twice is a suicide, gimme a break.

  12. Just The Facts says:

    The little “b*tch” of a man got what was coming to him, DEATH! Couldn’t have happened to a better low life.

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