A Fall River police officer was justified in using deadly force last month against Anthony Harden, who was shot twice while trying to stab a second officer with a steak knife as police were moving to arrest him for beating his girlfriend, Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III concluded.
In an 11-page report, Quinn ruled the officer who fired the two shots, who was identified in the report only as a female officer, complied with the legal requirement that the use of deadly force is permitted when the life of another is in danger during the Nov. 22 confrontation, Quinn concluded.
“The fatal shooting of Mr. Harden by a Fall River police officer was justified and was the result of Mr. Harden’s violent and armed assault on the male police officer,” Quinn concluded. “ There is no basis to conclude that either Fall River police officer committed a crime.”
In a separate statement released Dec. 28, Harden’s brother, Eric B. Mack, sharply questioned Quinn’s findings.
“Despite releasing a report clearing the police officers, he has refused to disclose their names to the public,” Mack said. “If a civilian had shot someone, the District Attorney would release the name of the shooter.”
Mack added that the personnel records and backgrounds of the officers involved in the case are relevant to the probe.
“Me and my family, as well as the public, should be able to learn the police officers’ backgrounds just as the District Attorney publicized my brother’s background,” Mack said. “District Attorney Quinn’s report does not mention the police officers’ experience, disciplinary issues or why the female police officer did not have a taser.”
According to Quinn’s report, Harden’s girlfriend, whose name was not included in the report, told Fall River police on Nov. 20 that Harden had beaten her using a wooden stick, among other acts of domestic violence two days earlier. The two officers who interviewed his girlfriend then went to 120 Melville St. to arrest Harden on domestic violence charges, Quinn said.
At the time, Harden was already being prosecuted for strangling his wife and multiple acts of domestic violence in 2019 and had been ordered to stay inside wearing a GPS monitoring bracelet while the case — which was delayed when the pandemic forced courts to close — was pending. He was living with his brother; the landlord had a separate unit.
The two officers arrived at 6:05 p.m. were let in by the landlord and were directed to Harden’s bedroom by his brother. Harden was sitting at a desk in the small bedroom that did not have a door. The officers asked Harden to speak with them outside, and when he repeatedly and in increasingly angry tones, refused to do so, the male officer moved to put him into handcuffs, Quinn wrote.
At that point, Quinn wrote, Harden reached onto the desk, pivoted towards the male police officer with a shiny object in his right hand. “The female police officer saw that the item was metallic pointed, and she believed it to be a knife,” Quinn wrote.
Harden repeatedly tried to stab the male officer whom he had pinned against the wall. The male officer was able to fend off the attacks that Harden continued to launch without stop, Quinn wrote.
“Both officers described that Mr. Harden raised his right hand above his head and came down at the male police officer’s head and neck area. … Both officers believed Mr. Hardin was going to kill the male police officer.”
The female officer fired two shots, hitting Harden on the side. He fell to the floor and minutes later when another officer moved to put him into handcuffs, Harden kept moving his arms around so he could not be cuffed, Quinn said.
Harden also knocked away a medical device that an EMT was trying to use to provide immediate medical help, Quinn wrote. He was pronounced dead at St. Anne’s Hospital.
A stainless steel steak knife was found underneath Harden when he was lifted onto a gurney by EMTs, Quinn’s office said.
The brother told police Harden had ADHD but the girlfriend said she believed Harden had a more serious mental health issue for which he was not being treated, according to Quinn’s office.
But Mack, the brother of Harden, insisted in his Dec. 28 statement that the investigation was flawed.
“District Attorney Quinn attempts to justify my brother’s death by relying on information the police officers did not know when an officer shot him,” Mack said. “Much of the information used to justify Anthony’s shooting was information we – me, my family and his girlfriend – told them hours after he was killed. District Attorney Quinn cherry-picked portions of the interviews to make my brother look as bad as possible.”
Quinn, Mack asserted, has “manipulated the ‘evidence’ in an effort to support the Fall River Police Department.”
Travis Andersen of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.