Family still looking for answers

One year since Aaron Harrison shot to death by police
August 5, 2008 4:17:22 PM PDT
The family of a Chicago man who was shot and killed by Chicago police is still looking for answers. Aaron Harrison was fatally shot one year ago, August 6, 2007. Police say Harrison was shot when he pointed a gun at officers while running away. According to the family's attorney, witnesses said Harrison wasn't armed. Investigators still have not determined whether this fatal police shooting was justified. But there is new information about the case. ABC7 has obtained recently filed court documents related to the lawsuit filed by the victim's mother.

"Now, the closer it gets towards August 6th, the more it tears me up," said Annie Johnson, victim's mother.

Annie Johnson remembers August 6, 2007, as though it was yesterday. A policeman's bullet fired in a West Side alley that evening killed Johnson's son, 18-year-old Aaron Harrison. A police report says the teenager, alleged to be a self-described Unknown Vice Lords member, was hit in the rear of his upper left shoulder, 3 inches below the neckline.

Johnson says Aaron, simply, was shot in the back and that he did not belong to a gang.

"They know he wasn't about all the things that the police say," said Annie Johnson "They try to bring up whatever they can to cover up what they do, their mistakes, whatever."

Police say the fatal shot was fired in self-defense, when Harrison -- running away from a street stop -- allegedly pointed a pistol at a pursuing officer.

Investigators claim they found a 9mm handgun inches from the teenager's body. But attorney James Montgomery, Jr. says there are several witnesses who claim that Harrison was not armed.

"Multiple witnesses saw this happen, saw no gun in the hands of Aaron Harrison. That signals there was something drastically wrong that happened that day," said James Montgomery, Jr., plaintiff's attorney.

Court documents identify the four patrolmen involved in the chase and shooting as members of the now-defunct special operations section. The department disbanded the unit last October after criminal misconduct and abuse allegations against several members.

The officer who shot and killed Harrison -- whose name ABC7 has withheld -- was not among those indicted. He is a 33-year-old, nine-year department veteran who from 2003 up until the incident had 21 citizen complaints filed against him, all of which were ruled unfounded after internal investigations.

"You get to the point where you question, are they even doing an investigation?" said Annie Johnson.

Johnson hoped that by now the state police crime lab would have finished tests on the fatal bullet and other evidence, that videotape from surveillance cameras near the scene would have been analyzed, and that all witnesses would have been interviewed. But the new Independent Police Review Authority gives no indication it will issue a finding in the near future. Spokesman Mark Payne tells ABC7, "It's still under investigation. There are still some things we need to do."

When the IPRA was commissioned last fall it promised findings on police-involved shootings within six months. To date, the agency has never issued any finding in any such case.

Spokesman Mark Payne says the IPRA remains understaffed and its cases have not been made a priority at the state crime lab.

It's not just victims' families that find these long waits excruciating. Police officers involved in justified shootings also want their good names cleared as soon as possible.


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