Chief: Officer opened fire after fearing for his life

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by REBECCA LOPEZ and JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on July 24, 2012 at 5:30 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 25 at 3:32 AM

Police-involved shooting

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DALLAS -- Gunfire erupted in southeast Dallas late Tuesday afternoon as police confronted  four suspects at what neighbors said was an illegal drug house. An officer fatally shot one of the suspects during an extended foot chase.

The tense situation escalated when hundreds of people converged on the crime scene.

At a news conference Tuesday night, police Chief David Brown said when three officers surrounded the house in the 5300 block of Borquin Street responding to a 911 kidnapping call, four people ran from the residence from the front door and from windows.

Brown said veteran Officer Brian Rowden began a foot pursuit of 31-year-old James Harper. Brown said the two engaged in three separate "physical fights" as the suspect ran down an alley and hopped over three fences.

"After jumping the third fence after Harper, Officer Rowden was basically out of energy and just clinging to Harper, who was beating on him," Chief Brown said. "Officer Rowden states at this time Harper said, 'You're gonna have to kill me.'"

Chief Brown said the officer, fearing for his life, pulled his weapon and shot Harper in the stomach and the hand. The chief said Harper has a long criminal history.

Brown said no weapon was found on Harper, and that there was no evidence that any of the officers had been fired upon. He said it was not clear why the officer did not use a Taser or other non-lethal weapon to subdue Harper.

Officer Rowden was shaken up but was not seriously hurt, Brown said.

One other suspect surrendered and Brown said police confiscated cash and crack cocaine from the property. While the first officers at the scene said they had seen a handgun on a table inside the residence, no weapon was recovered.

Chief Brown urged any witnesses to come forward with information about what they saw.

The incident triggered emotional outbursts from a number of onlookers.

Sandra Harper, who identified herself as the mother of James Harper, claimed her 31-year-old had been shot in the back. Chief Brown said the medical examiner would make that determination.

"My son didn't have no gun, whatever the police said," Mrs. Harper said.

The crowd was urged to move to a nearby church to attend a community meeting to discuss what happened. Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway was at the scene to gather facts.

"This is beyond Southeast, this is the Dallas Police Department and the City of Dallas," Caraway said. "The police are moving and doing what they need to do to clear the neighborhood so we can bring peace."

Caraway said the victim's family is cooperating. "This is a very volatile situation, and it if not handled right, it could escalate into something that it should not," he said.

Rev. Kyev P. Tatum of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference issued this statement:

"The fair minded people in South Dallas need to remain calm; peaceful and allow justice to take her course. We will make sure a full investigation is conducted and we are confident that Chief Brown and DA Watkins will seek truth in this case. Violence in the community is not the answer. As Dr. King once said, 'An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.' The SCLC is praying for the peace in South Dallas."

Brown said police responded to the address shortly after 5 p.m. after receiving a 911 call reporting a man being dragged into the house. The chief said it appeared that the report was bogus, and may have been issued by a competing drug dealer.

Dozens of police units -- some in riot gear -- converged on the scene to provide crowd control. The department's SWAT team arrived after 6:30 p.m.

There appeared to be several emotional people and at one point, at least one officer was seen firing what appeared to be pellets into the pavement that left marks on the surface in an effort to disperse the crowd.

Later, several fist fights broke out in the street among onlookers.

A woman was taken away in an ambulance.

News 8 observed at least three top police officials at the scene, including Assistant Chief Charles Cato. Two "companion officers" were requested at the scene to provide assistance to any police personnel who were involved in firing their weapons.

Rev. Earnest Freeney, a pastor in the community, was helping police to try and calm down the crowd. He said he was worried that people from other parts of the city and even from other cities would come to this neighborhood, increasing problems for public officials.

Chief Brown said the results of a police investigation will presented to the district attorney, who will, in turn, present that evidence to an independent grand jury which will determine whether the fatal shooting was justified.

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