DA releases finding that officer involved shooting death of Anthony Harden of Fall River was justified



The Bristol County District Attorney’s Office has released their findings in the shooting death of Anthony Harden of Fall River.

On Monday, November 22, 2021, at approximately 5:13 p.m., a 22-year-old woman called the Fall River Police to report a domestic violence incident that occurred two days prior. Two Fall River Police Officers were dispatched to the woman’s residence and took her complaint. There, the woman informed police that she was in a dating relationship with Anthony Harden. She stated that two day prior, Harden had choked her and struck her in face with a stick. The police officers documented injuries to the woman’s face and then proceeded to 120 Melville Street in Fall River to arrest Harden.

Once at 120 Melville Street, the same Fall River Police Officers entered the building with assistance of the landlord. Approximately two minutes after entering the building, one of the responding officers sent a message over the radio that shots were fired and to send a medic. As a result, within minutes numerous Fall River Police Officers and emergency medical personnel responded to 120 Melville Street. Harden was found with apparent gunshot wounds and was treated by medical personnel. Harden was initially transported by ambulance to Rhode Island Hospital but was rerouted to St. Anne’s Hospital due to his critical condition. All life saving measures were unsuccessful and Harden was pronounced deceased by Dr. Forzano at 6:51 PM.

At the time of his death, Harden was on a GPS bracelet and confined to his home. This was the result of pending charges involving a physical assault on his wife from November of 2019 in the Fall River District Court. In that case, Fall River Police responded to St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River and spoke with Harden’s wife. Harden’s wife told police that Harden punched, slapped and strangled her during a dispute. She further told police that Harden took her phone, accused her of cheating, and threatened her with a knife. Police observed and photographed the following injuries on Harden’s wife: a swollen and bruised right eye; bruising and scratch marks on neck, chest, and arms; and bruising on her inner thigh areas. The injuries observed on Harden’s wife’s face and body were consistent with her description of the assault that Mr. Harden perpetrated on her. As a result of this assault, Harden’s wife sought and was granted a restraining order.

After taking the complaint from his wife, police responded to Harden’s residence. When police knocked at the front door of his home, Harden opened the door. After the door was opened, police observed Harden screaming while holding his five-month-old daughter and a small sword. When police observed this behavior, his possession of a weapon, and the police backed away from the door. Harden then closed and locked the door, requiring the police officers to later make a forced entry into the apartment. After gaining entry into the apartment and making repeated commands, Harden eventually dropped the sword. Although he no longer had the sword, Harden refused to put the infant down and comply with police requests. During this time, Mr. Harden repeatedly threatened the police with “squeezing [the infant] to death” if the police tried to “rush” him. During this time, Harden also made several statements about committing suicide. After three and a half hours of a standoff, Harden eventually agreed to hand his child to a police officer and he was taken into custody.

Harden’s girlfriend told investigators that she believed he had mental health issues. To her knowledge, Harden was not being treated. Harden’s brother believed that Harden was diagnosed with ADHD and did not believe him to be on any medication. Other family members indicated that Harden was actively seeking mental health treatment but was not currently receiving services or on any medication.

On Monday, November 22, 2021, Harden’s girlfriend was interviewed by investigators and described that an incident occurred two days prior, November 20th, at Harden’s apartment. She told investigators that Harden accused her of cheating, knocked her to the bed and struck her in the face with a painted wooden stick. At some point, she was able to free herself. She grabbed her keys and exited the apartment. At this point, she realized that she did not have her phone and yelled at Mr. Harden to give it back to her. Instead of giving her phone to her, Mr. Harden responded by throwing a potted plant at the woman which smashed on the ground. Harden’s girlfriend left his apartment and did not initially report the matter to police.

On November 21st, Harden’s girlfriend returned to his apartment to retrieve some of her personal items, including her phone. At that time, Harden provided her with some of her personal items, but still would not return her phone. She eventually left without her phone. The following day, November 22nd, she again went to Harden’s apartment for the purpose of retrieving her phone and remained outside of his apartment.” Harden gave her the phone back. When she received the phone back, she noticed that it was wet. She noted that it smelled of acetone, and contained markings such as Harden’s name.

In a recorded interview after Harden’s death, Harden’s girlfriend told investigators that the incident she reported to police was not the only instance where Harden had been abusive. She indicated that over the course of their two-year relationship, Harden struck her with open and closed fists and threatened her with knives and a sword. She described on how one occasion Harden pushed the sword into her stomach causing a bruise and cuts to her fingers as she tried to remove a sword from her stomach. In another incident, Harden’s girlfriend described how Harden pushed her into the bathroom, causing an injury to her knee and leg. She further described how Harden “squeezed soap all over (her)” because he said she had a filthy mouth. These incidents were not reported to the police until after Harden’s death.

Harden’s girlfriend told investigators that she knew that Harden could not leave his building due to the GPS bracelet restrictions. She further stated that she was afraid of Harden when he was “raged up” and that he would definitely kill (her).” She stated that Harden had told her that he would kill her.

Harden told his girlfriend “if (she) calls the police (he) will die.” This statement was also made to her the day before.

After receiving the complaint from Harden’s girlfriend and documenting her injuries, the two Fall River police officers made their way to 120 Melville Street to arrest Harden. The police officers knocked on the front door of the residence and spoke with the owner of the residence, telling him the purpose for their visit. The owner, after securing a dog, let the two police officers into the building and pointed out where Harden’s room was located.

The police officers made their way to Harden’s room, which had no door on it. The room was a small, cluttered bedroom with numerous items on a desk and the floor. The male police officer knocked on the frame of the door and announced his presence. At this time, Harden was sitting in a chair with the small desk in front of him. The male police officer told Harden that he needed to speak with the police. Harden indicated that he knew why the police were there and that they needed to see a cell phone video. The male police officer again asked Harden to step outside and talk with him. Harden responded that he was charging his bracelet and that he was not coming with the police. The male police officer saw that Harden’s emotional state was escalating and believed that Harden was not willing to cooperate with the officers. The male officer told Harden that he was going to be placed under arrest and the male officer began to undo the button on his belt to release his handcuffs. While this conversation was occurring, both police officers were inside Harden’s room standing against a wall by his doorway. The male officer was approximately 4 and 12 to 6 feet away from Harden. The female officer was standing to right of the male officer.

At this point, Harden reached toward the desk and grabbed an item with his right hand. The male police officer did not see what Harden grabbed. The female police officer saw that the item was metallic, pointed and she believed it to be a knife. After grabbing this item, Harden turned his body toward the male officer, sprang to his feet and quickly moved towards the male police officer. Both officers described that Harden raised his right hand above his head and came down at the male police officer’s head and neck area. The male police officer was able to thwart Harden’s blow with his left forearm. The male police officer attempted to punch and push Harden with his right hand to stop the attack. These attempts were unsuccessful.

Harden repeatedly attempted to stab the male police officer in the neck and head area with what was now confirmed to be a knife. The male police officer described Harden as being on top of him when this occurred, and that he was pinned against the wall. The male police officer indicated that he was not able to gain solid footing due to the clutter under his feet and between his feet and the wall. As a result, the male police officer had no leverage and his upper body remained pinned against the wall while he was defending himself. The male police officer stated that he used his left forearm to block Harden’s right hand from connecting with his head and neck during the numerous blows. Both officers believed Harden was going to kill the male police officer.

As a result of observing Harden assaulting the male police officer, the female officer fired two shots from her service weapon. After being shot, Harden turned and looked at the female officer and fell over. At 6:17:08 pm, the male officer put out a radio call for shots fired and officer in need of assistance. At 6:17:20 pm, the patrol sergeant radioed that all units are directed to 120 Melville Street and to keep the radio channel clear. While the Sergeant was on the radio, the channel was not accessible to other officers. At 6:17:30 pm, the male officer called over the radio for an ambulance.

The male officer told the Sergeant upon his arrival that, “That guy just tried to kill me with a knife!” The Sergeant drew his weapon, entered the bedroom and observed Harden laying on the floor just inside the doorway. The Sergeant observed Harden laying on his belly, groaning and still moving his hands. The Sergeant told Harden to stop moving his hands and attempted to secure Harden in handcuffs with the assistance of an officer that had just arrived. While the police officers attempted to put handcuffs on him, Harden attempted to pull his hands away from the Sergeant and tuck his hands under his body. Ultimately, Harden was handcuffed and the Sergeant called for someone to grab a medical bag and render aid.

Fall River Officers began arriving quickly to 120 Melville Street. These officers tended to Harden and also cleared the other rooms in the house.

At 6:22:40 pm, Fall River Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrived at 120 Melville Street and was treating Harden at approximately 6:25 pm. Fall River EMS personnel reported finding Harden “handcuffed on floor laying supine, alert, airway open clear and secure, palpable carotid pulses, c/o shortness of breath.” At the EMS request, Harden was uncuffed and two “penetrating holes” were observed on Harden’s “lower chest/flank area…” Two Fall River Police Officers assisted EMS in moving Harden to a backboard. While doing so, one of the Officers located a stainless-steel knife with a black handle next to Harden’s body. This Officer removed the knife from the ground and placed it on the desk in the bedroom. The other Officer who assisted in moving Harden also observed the knife after it was removed.

A chest needle decompression on Harden’s left side was initially “unsuccessful due to the patient being combative and swatting EMS hand.” A second attempt was successful. Initially, EMS began to transport Harden to Rhode Island Hospital, but they were rerouted to St. Anne’s Hospital after Mr. Harden’s condition worsened. At St. Anne’s Hospital, life-saving measures were unsuccessful. At 6:51 pm, Harden was pronounced dead.

During a subsequent interview of Harden’s brother, he indicated that he was in his bedroom with a dog when Harden encountered the police. The brother heard the landlord say that the police were here. The brother then described hearing some words spoken between Mr. Harden and police. Harden’s brother heard Harden say he wanted to show the police the video he recorded of his girlfriend. At some point, Harden’s brother heard a man say “Stop Resisting”, some scuffling noises and then two pop noises. During a subsequent interview of the landlord, the landlord indicated that after he let the police into the home, he went upstairs to his bedroom. A short time later he heard a commotion and three gun shots.”

investigators recovered a steak knife from the bedroom desk. The location was consistent with where the Officer indicated the knife was placed after it was removed from where it was seen next to Harden. A brass backing of a pin was recovered from Harden’s room. This backing was consistent with one that belonged to the male officer’s uniform as described in the next section. Lastly, a painted stick was observed near Harden’s bed that appeared to consistent with what Mr. Harden’s girlfriend said Harden used to strike her.

The female Fall River Police Officer that responded to 120 Melville Street was wearing a full Fall River Police Uniform with markings that identified her as a police officer. This Officer was assigned a department issued .40 caliber service weapon with a 15 round magazine that was fully loaded and two additional 15 round magazines that were fully loaded. At the start of his shift, this Officer’s Lieutenant examined her service weapon and found no issues. This Officer also had oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray and a baton, but did not have a taser. This Officer completed her annual firearms re-certification on October 14, 2021.

The female Officer’s department issue weapon was collected and inventoried. The magazine contained 12 rounds of ammunition and one additional live round of ammunition was chambered in the pistol. This is consistent with the Officer firing two of the 15 rounds in her weapon.

The findings were as follows:

“Based on a review of all the facts and circumstances related to this incident, there is no basis to conclude that either Fall River Police Officer committed a crime. 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.”

1 Comment

  1. Mike Napert

    December 23, 2021 at 9:35 am

    The fact that we have LEO’s on the job who are prepared to deal with these situations speak volumes to the training and professionalism that our rank and file FRPD officers possess, despite the political interference at the top. Ive said it before, and I’ll say it again… If ever we get an occupant on the sixth floor with the testicular fortitude to TRULY get a handle on all the unnecessary BULL***T in the department, we’ll have a department that can and will shine! Now, if we can just get the local self-aggrandizing broadcast media to stop with the inflammatory reporting tactics, we might just be OK.

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