FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — A Fall River police officer has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of a suspect last month.
An investigation conducted by Massachusetts State Police detectives and the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office found the use of force was justified after the suspect “suddenly and violently” attacked one of the officers with a knife.
The DA’s office said two officers had gone to Anthony Harden’s Melville Street apartment on Nov. 22 to arrest him on domestic violence charges. Harden was uncooperative, police said, and when one of the officers reached for his handcuffs, Harden grabbed a knife and lunged at him, trying several times to stab the officer in the head and neck area.
As the officer tried to stop the attack, he became pinned against the wall, prompting the second officer to shoot Harden twice in the side, according to the DA’s office. The officer who fired her service weapon was not named in the report.
Harden was treated at the scene then taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead just before 7 p.m.
Over the past few weeks, detectives gathered evidence and conducted 20 interviews, the DA’s office said. They concluded that since both officers believed the life of the officer being attacked was in jeopardy, the use of force by the other officer was consistent with the department’s use-of-force and self-defense policies.
“Due to the sudden and violent nature of Mr. Harden’s unprovoked attack, de-escalation tactics were not feasible based on all the circumstances,” the report stated. “The use of force was not excessive because two shots were reasonable under the circumstance to prevent the officer from suffering seriously [sic] bodily injury and/or death.”
While the DA’s office has determined the officer’s actions were justified, Harden’s brothers believe the findings are insufficient.
“If police are able to give a passable explanation for it, there’s not going to be any in-depth investigation into what was done,” his brother Eric Mack said, adding that the findings don’t corroborate their own investigation into what happened. “I think we have a long fight ahead of us, and this is just the beginning.”
Mack said they’ve discovered numerous inconsistences between their own findings and those of the DA’s office, including where his brother was shot and the overall timeline of events.
“One of the things that’s not clear in the report is when they found out the information they found out, much of which was after they had already killed him,” Mack explained.
Carl Harden, Anthony’s older brother, questioned the credibility of the Fall River Police Department, which has come under scrutiny in recent months.
“With everything that’s been going on over the past several years … it’s hard to take police at their word,” he said. “Which is sad to say in this day and age, but that is the fact of the matter of what we’re dealing with.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Fall River Police Department said the Office of Professional Standards will now conduct its own internal investigation into the incident “to ensure that the actions taken by the involved officers was consistent with our policies and procedures.”