By: Eric B. Mack – the brother of the late Anthony Harden
While everyone is properly fixated on the use of body cameras to expose the truth about what happens between police officers and members of the general public, they often overlook the fact that there is a mechanism in place to provide transparency – the District Attorney. Unfortunately, the cozy relationship between the District Attorney and the police departments have undermined this process. Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn – a man who was given the position by his predecessor and has never been opposed in any election – does not work for the police department. The District Attorney just happens to frequently work with police officers to execute his duties. When an elected official repeatedly runs unopposed, the public official does not have to worry about being held accountable for his actions on Election Day.
On November 22, 2021, my brother, Anthony Harden – a 30-year-old who had never been convicted of a crime – was killed by two Fall River Police Officers. Both police officers have been cleared of any wrongdoing by District Attorney Quinn. Despite releasing a report clearing the police officers, he has refused to disclose their names to the public. If a civilian had shot someone, the District Attorney would release the name of the shooter. District Attorney Quinn is clearly trying to protect the two police officers.
The personnel records and backgrounds of the police officers are relevant to the investigation. 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. 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.
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. 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. Again, if the perpetrator of the crime had been a civilian, I doubt District Attorney Quinn would selectively use statements made by the individual’s family after-the-fact to justify the perpetrator’s actions. The job of any district attorney is to rely on the evidence leading up to the incident to determine what caused it, regardless of who committed the crime. District Attorney Quinn has manipulated the “evidence” in an effort to support the Fall River Police Department.
Consider, for example, the charges the Bristol County District Attorneys’ office attempted to bring against the family of Mr. Larry Ruiz-Barreto. As a reminder, Mr. Ruiz-Barreto was shot six times and killed by Fall River Police Officer Nicholas Hoar on November 12, 2017. After Mr. Ruiz-Barreto was shot, there was apparently an incident at Charlton Memorial Hospital, which resulted in the Bristol County District Attorneys’ office filing charges against the Barreto family. To defend the Barreto family, their attorney requested the video footage (among other items) of the incident. The Bristol County District Attorneys’ office refused to provide the video to the Barreto family’s attorney, which resulted in many of the charges against the Barreto family being dropped. Whatever was in the video was so damaging to the Fall River Police Department and the Bristol County District Attorneys’ case that they would rather drop the charges than hand over the video footage to the attorney for Mr. Baretto’s family.
Not only does the Bristol County District Attorneys’ office refuse to give unfavorable evidence to the opposing party, but they often fail to thoroughly investigate incidents involving police officers. In the case of Mr. Ruiz-Barreto’s death, Officer Hoar’s primary reason for shooting the 19-year-old was he could not get out of the way of his vehicle. According to Officer Hoar, “he didn’t feel he could safely attempt to cut through the space between the cars or move out in the direction of the street because cars were still fleeing the scene.” (Emphasis added). As best I can tell, the police officer questioning Officer Hoar never bothered to ask him any difficult questions about the purported vehicles still “fleeing the scene,” such as (i) what the make and models of the vehicles were, (ii) what color the cars were, or (iii) how fast were the cars going. Most importantly, Officer Hoar fails to explain how the path he had walked moments earlier to arrive at the driver-side of Mr. Ruiz-Barreto’s vehicle was suddenly so dangerous that he could not “safely” walk back in that direction. No evidence of police officer wrongdoing is ever found because there is no real effort to locate it.
Do not be fooled by District Attorney Quinn’s press conferences and reports defending police officers; individuals he incorrectly views as his clients. Rather, everyone should reserve judgment about what happened to my brother until after they have the ability to see all of the evidence. No one knows what evidence exists related to my brother’s death because District Attorney Quinn refuses to disclose it. I do not know what the evidence will ultimately show, but neither do any of you. It should immediately be released for everyone to see.
DA Quinn released a statement after the Harden family’s statement
“The death of Anthony Harden is a tragedy for his family and all involved. I continue to express my sympathies to the family. As previously stated, this was a thorough investigation conducted by senior prosecutors of the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office. The determination that the shooting death of Anthony Harden was justified was made without any influence from the Fall River Police Department. The Fall River PD is not a client of my office. In fact, we have and will continue to prosecute police officers when warranted by the evidence. Our role in this matter was to determine whether a crime was committed. In this case, there is no evidence of a crime.”