Original article no longer available
The Huntington News
May 16, 2008
By Tony Rutherford, Huntingtonnews.net Reporter
Huntington, WV (HNN) – Despite a constant moderate rain, men and women, black and white, they came with umbrellas, on foot and in vehicles. Some came alone; others strolled arm in arm. Some needed shoulders on which to grieve.
They brought candles, they received candles, and others paid particular attention to a blue dumpster less than half a block from the railroad tracks. On Sunday afternoon, Mother’s Day, a 19 year old Huntington High School graduate fell mortally wounded from a bullet(s) fire by Marshall University Police Department officers.
Rev. Samuel Moore told the crowd that “we want to find answers,” to what happened when Rashuwn Harless.”
According to law enforcement officials, the teen exited Speedway at Sixth and Hal Greer Blvd. carrying a gun. MUPD officers chased him through the neighborhood allegedly exchanging gunfire. Somewhere at or near the dumpster, Harless allegedly fired at police; two MUPD officers returned fire. One bullet hit him in the head. Following surgery, he passed away on Monday, May 12.
Family members have spoken to witnesses. They suggest that Rashuwn either did not have a gun or did not fire a gun. They say a wound on his finger indicates he had his hands in the air at the time he was shot. After he fell, officers did not know whether he remained a threat. Unable to visually determine his condition, family members believe that law enforcement waited too long to approach the wounded teen and send him by ambulance to Cabell Huntington Hospital.
Two Marshall University officers have been placed on administrative leave while an investigation is conducted.
At the vigil, family member Linda Dering stated that Harles’ funeral would be Saturday and that the mortician had informed the family that an autopsy showed the wound was not self inflicted. “He said he wanted us to see that [death certificate], to rest assured that it was not a self inflicted gun shot wound as they are portraying in the paper,” she said.
A published report indicated that crime scene detectives found the man’s firearm Sunday, May 11, next to the teen. The report stated that spent casings were recovered from both the weapon of Harless and the MUPD officers. Some members of Harless’ family object to this version of events, stressing that if the teen fired wildly at officers during the chase, bullets or casings would have been found in the neighborhood.
As the investigation continued, Rev. Moore called on mourners to “dedicate ourselves to rescuing each other,” adding that “we are responsible for one another. It’s important that we reach out and help when [someone] is struggling. Rashawn was struggling. People passed by. We passed by. Then, because of the disabilities that were affecting him, this tragedy occurred.”
Harless family attempted to have him admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital on a mental hygiene petition, but a psychiatrist and others there said he did not meet criteria for admission. He had recently been prescribed the anti-depressant Zoloft. Family members state that a blood test at the hospital indicated he had no illegal drugs in his bloodstream.
HNN could not learn what criteria Harless had to meet for admission from family members at the vigil.
Rev. Moore told HNN following the short memorial vigil that “it seems we are being inundated by a me first attitude,” which he termed “ a movement of selfishness.” However, he raised the three month infant of Harless as a sign of hope. Stressing that light can overcome darkness, he stated “ You look around and you see these people and that proves there is community spirit and unity.”
Moore declined to criticize anyone. “I do not have the facts. I will reserve judgment until the investigation is complete,” he said.