FALL RIVER — Among chants of “justice for Anthony,” the family and dozens of supporters of Anthony Harden, shot and killed late last year by an unidentified female city police officer, demanded that the Bristol County district attorney and the Fall River Police Department release details of the death investigation during a peaceful rally in Britland Park on Saturday.
With the Fall River Police Department headquarters in the background, Harden’s brothers, uncles and representatives from social justice groups addressed the crowd, some holding “Black Lives Matter” signs.
“We are here to demand transparency from the local authorities. We are here to honor the memory of my brother Anthony Harden. We are here to be the voice for the voiceless. We are here to be the light against the darkness,” said sibling Carl Harden.
On Nov. 22, just two and half minutes after police arrived at his residence to investigate a domestic complaint by his girlfriend, Anthony Harden was shot dead by police in the bedroom of his Melville Street apartment. According to the report issued by the District Attorney's office, he was alleged to have attacked the female officer's male partner with a steak knife while they tried to place him in custody.
Harden was later pronounced dead at Saint Anne’s Hospital from two bullet wounds. Neither officer was injured in the altercation.
A month to the day of the fatal shooting, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn released a report of his agency’s investigation with Massachusetts State Police detectives that found the two officers were justified in the deadly action.
Family raises questions: Anthony Harden was killed in a police shooting. Now, his family wants answers.
Anthony Harden's family continues to demand answers
The family has publicly been pushing police and Quinn to release information gleaned during the investigation.
Among the information the family is seeking, is the autopsy report conducted by the state.
Anthony Harden’s oldest brother, Eric Mack, a Providence attorney, has said the family has conducted its own autopsy and that his sibling was shot twice in the chest, which contradicts the DA's report of where on his body the 30-year-old was shot.
At the time of his death, Anthony Harden had been on house arrest for two years and was awaiting trial this past December for a stand-off with police while holding his then 5-month-old daughter.
The family has hired a private investigator and Boston-based police brutality attorney, Howard Friedman, who has won civil cases against city police officers in the past.
Friedman represented a man who was severely injured during an arrest by police officer Michael Pessoa, which resulted in a $225,000 settlement with the city.
Friedman also represented the late George Thompson, who was arrested in January 2014 for using his cellphone to record video of officer Thomas Barboza in public. While Thompson was in custody, the video was erased. Thompson settled with the city for $72,500.
Eric Mack said that the family has recently filed another round of public records requests asking the district attorney and the police department to furnish all documents, recordings and photographs associated with the police shooting investigation.
Rally calls for transparency
During the rally Saturday, Eric Mack said at this point the family has reached no conclusions on what happened to their brother because, after multiple requests, the district attorney and police refused to provide any evidence that Anthony Harden’s death was justified.
“Rather they want us to take their word for it that what they said was true,” said Eric Mack. “That is never going to happen. The entire purpose of District Attorney Thomas Quinn’s report was to devalue my brother's life.”
Lindsay Aldworth, of the Coalition for Social Justice, spoke about the need for police body cameras, a program that does not exist in the Fall River Police Department, although there is funding for a pilot program and still being negotiated with the police unions.
“The use of these body cameras has been shown to improve police accountability,” said Aldworth.
Father of Larry Ruiz-Barreto speaks at rally
At the end of the nearly hourlong rally in frigid temperatures, Harden’s family introduced the father of Larry Ruiz-Barreto, who was shot and killed in 2017 at the age of 19 by Fall River patrol officer, Nicholas Hoar, in the Industrial Park.
Hoar shot the 19-year-old, who was expecting a child at the time of the shooting. Ruiz-Barreto died from five of six bullets fired by Hoar through the windshield of Ruiz-Barreto's vehicle.
After a four-month investigation, Quinn cleared Hoar, who maintained that he was in fear that Ruiz-Barreto was attempting to run him over.
Demix Ruiz-Hernandez of New Bedford, Ruiz-Bareto's father, was sitting in the passenger seat when his son was shot.
After the shooting, the dead man’s family was arrested after a brawl with police officers at Charlton Memorial Hospital that they said was unprovoked.
The district attorney eventually dropped the charges and the city is still facing a $34 million lawsuit.
Speaking through an interpreter, Ruiz-Hernandez said he understood the difficult time Anthony Harden’s family was going through, as his has for the last four years.
As the protest came to a close, the crowd that had grown in size chanted for justice for both Anthony Harden and Ruiz-Barreto, and urged supporters to contact the district attorney and Fall River police, and demand the release of information in the Anthony Harden case.
This article originally appeared on The Herald News: Rally for Anthony Harden calls for police transparency