Police Release More Details on Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting

Pastors, civil rights leaders question use of force

Thursday, Jul 26, 2012  |  Updated 2:27 PM CDT
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Police release 911 transcript that supports chief's account of the incident that led up to officer-involved shooting that left James Harper dead.

Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News

Police release 911 transcript that supports chief's account of the incident that led up to officer-involved shooting that left James Harper dead.

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Community Calls for Shooting Investigation

Dallas pastors and civil rights leaders are calling for an investigation into the use of force in the Dallas police shooting of James Harper.
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Dallas police have released their initial report on a fatal officer-involved shooting in South Dallas, and community leaders have called for an outside investigation.

James Harper, 31, was shot and killed by Officer Brian Rowden during a physical altercation, police said.

Some local pastors and civil rights leaders are questioning the officer's use of force. They say there should be more citizen oversight of officer-involved shootings.

Police Chief David Brown said police would conduct a thorough investigation into the shooting. The district attorney and a grand jury will review the case to decide if the shooting was justified.

Harper's family said Wednesday that family members want all of the facts before publicly talking about the case.

Police officers were in the neighborhood on Wednesday to make sure things remained calm, but there were no incidents. Hundreds of people gathered near the crime scene soon after the shooting as rumors that Harper had been shot in the back circulated.

According to the Dallas County medical examiner's preliminary report, Harper died of a gunshot wound. The report does not specify where Harper was shot.

Report Includes Info on Apparent Bogus 911 Call

The initial report from police includes a transcript of the 911 call that led officers to the house that Harper allegedly fled.

Three officers went to the house on Bourquin Street to respond to a 911 call about a kidnapping.

The caller told the operator: "I seen like five or six Hispanics with some guns just walked this black dude in the house with his hands tied up."

"They were yelling at him like they were going to kill him or something," the caller said.

Police Chief David Brown on Tuesday said the call appeared to be bogus. The four men inside the house were not Hispanic, and investigators did not find anyone tied up in the house.

According to the initial police report, four men ran out of the house. The officers saw a gun on a table inside the house.

Harper, who was unarmed, jumped three fences while fleeing, the report said. He started beating on Rowden in a neighboring yard. Rowden drew his weapon and shot Harper, the report said.

Brown said Tuesday night that Harper and Rowden had three separate physical altercations during the foot chase.

"And so the third time, the officer became exhausted," he said. "He was by himself with no one close. He had to do what he felt appropriate, which we will review."

One of the four men, Arthur Dixon, was arrested.

Questions Raised About Use of Force in Shooting

A group of pastors and civil rights leaders said Dallas should have a citizens review board to investigate all officer-involved shootings.

"Last month, someone in North Dallas had a confrontation with police officers and they shot him with a beanbag. In the southern sector, they use bullets. What is the difference? Why the disparity in when the police should use a bullet or when they should use their Tasers or a beanbag?" said the Rev. Ronald Wright, of Justice Seekers Texas.

Wright said he was not defending a drug dealer but was questioning how he died.

"If the officer felt like his life was in danger, why didn't he call for back up or why didn't he cease his chase [as] opposed to taking the action that he took?" he said.

Wright also called on the New Black Panther Party, which has been critical of police, to go back to the Black Panther Party's history of running drug dealers out of communities.

Councilwoman Carolyn Davis, who represents the neighborhood, said people in the community have called to complain about drug houses.

She said it is too soon to make conclusions about the fatal shooting.

"Let's let Chief Brown do his investigation, finish his investigation and then come up with all the facts," she said. "I don't want to speak on something that I don't have enough information on before I make this hasty decision."

Neighbors said Harper's death is the eighth fatal police shooting of a suspect so far this year, compared to two fatal shootings in all of 2011.

"There's an underlying issue here that we have to deal with," Davis said.

Mayor Mike Rawlings said his confidence in Brown and the police department "has never been higher."

"As this case is examined, let me be clear -- Dallas has a zero tolerance for civil rights violations as well as a zero tolerance for bad people dealing drugs," he said.

Brown said Tuesday night that assaults on officers by suspects are up this year by a significant amount even though overall crime is down.

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