After Jason Harrison's father sued the city, the Dallas Police Department and the two officers who shot and killed his son, Harrison's mother and brother, David, have filed a lawsuit of their own. They claim Harrison, a schizophrenic, posed no threat when officers John Rogers and Andrew Hutchins, killed him.
In June, Harrison's mother called 911 and asked for a team equipped to deal with her son, who was being argumentative. She'd done this hundreds of times beforeand it was known around the community that Harrison wasn't violent. This time, however, two police officers arrived and knocked on the door. Harrison's mother answered, and then Harrison came to the door. Within seconds, the lawsuits claim, Rogers and Hutchins shot Harrison. The officers said they told Harrison to drop the screwdriver he was holding, but he didn't comply. An autopsy of Harrison's body showed he was shot five times, including once in the side and twice in the back, says Geoff Henley, David Harrison's lawyer.
The police say there is a video of the shooting but haven't released it to the public, contending it would interfere with a grand jury investigation.Without the video, what happened between the officers arriving and Harrison ending up dead outside his mother's home is still up for debate.
The police have maintained that Harrison made an "aggressive act" toward Rogers and Hutchins. Harrison had a screwdriver in his hand when he was shot, but family members say it was small Phillips head, the kind used to tighten the screws in eyeglasses. The officers say it was 6 inches long. The police say the aggressive act, which has been characterized as a lunge, made the officers fear for their lives because the screwdriver could be a "deadly puncture weapon" and justified the shooting.
Harrison's mother, who witnessed the shooting, says her son didn't lunge at anyone. In court documents related to the suit Harrison's father filed, Rogers and Hutchins say he "suddenly jabbed" at them. The distinction between a lunge and a jab is significant, Henley says.
A lunge implies Harrison moved his body toward the officers, churning his legs to get some kind of advantage on them. A jab, Henley says, implies a "flinch or a hand movement." If Harrison jabbed, his body would have remained still, which his mother says happened.
Rogers and Hutchins say they had to back away from the doorway because of the perceived threat from Harrison.
The officers also disagree on whom Harrison "jabbed" at first. Rogers says Harrison jabbed at Hutchins first, then him. Hutchins says Harrison jabbed at Rogers first, then him. They both say the jab seemed like a "substantial threat" to their safety.
Chris Bowers, an assistant city attorney, says in a lot of cases witnesses don't agree on every detail.
When it comes to releasing video, Police Chief David Brown has said, "We got one chance to get it right." The police have maintained that the video is consistent with the officers' accounts, but Henley, the lawyer, thinks if that's the case the police don't need to keep it under wraps.
"If they believe the officers will be exonerated," Henley says, "they're not doing anything but delaying the process."
Send your story tips to the author, Sky Chadde.
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