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The Times' criminal justice team looks behind the scenes and behind the headlines.

July 21, 2011 at 4:35 PM

'Person of interest' in Seattle slaying died from self-inflicted wound

Posted by John de Leon


Kenneth Harding

-- From The Associated Press:

San Francisco police say they now believe a Washington parolee they thought was slain by officers in a shootout died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Police Cmdr. Mike Biel said Thursday preliminary autopsy results showed the caliber of the bullet that killed 19-year-old Kenneth Harding did not match the caliber used by police. John Sanchez, a criminalist at the San Francisco Crime Lab, said the .380-caliber bullet found in Harding's head was not consistent with the.40-caliber guns issued to San Francisco police.

"The bullet could not have been fired from any department-issued firearm," Sanchez said.

Medical personnel found an unfired .380-caliber bullet in Harding's right jacket pocket, Biel said. Police were unable to find a firearm at the scene, but video taken by a bystander showed that a man in a striped, hooded sweatshirt removed a silver gun lying off to the side of where Harding laid face down, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Earlier this week, police said that a similar gun was located in the Bayview home of a parolee, but that police were still actively seeking the man in the hoodie.

On Thursday, Biel said that the gun seized by police does not appear to be the same one Harding fired, and asked for the public's help to find that firearm. A $1,000 reward is offered. He also said investigators are still trying to locate the man in the hoodie, according to the Chronicle.

The only other wound to Harding was a gunshot to his left leg, according to Chief Medical Examiner Amy Hart.

Investigators have not determined whether Harding shot himself on purpose or by accident, police said.

Investigators initially said Harding was gunned down by police after he opened fire on them during a chase Saturday.

Harding, who had lived in the Seattle area, was shot Saturday afternoon in San Francisco's Bayview District after fleeing and shooting at officers who had tried to cite him for transit-fare evasion, San Francisco police said.

Seattle police say he was a "person of interest" in the fatal shooting of Tanaya Gilbert in South Seattle on July 13. Gilbert, 19, was shot twice just before 11 p.m. as she sat in a parked car with three friends, including two cousins and a 16-year-old girl, in the 9600 block of 54th Avenue South.

The 16-year-old also was shot, as were a 21-year-old man in another parked car and a 17-year-old boy sitting on the hood of a nearby car. Gilbert's cousins escaped unharmed, said Gilbert's aunt, Rose Bankston.

Seattle police have not disclosed the caliber of the weapon used in the shooting.

Harding was released from the Clallam Bay Corrections Center in April after serving one year on a felony conviction of attempted promoting of commercial sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl in Seattle.

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