Tyrirk Harris didn’t seem in too much of a hurry to clean the dog droppings from his neighbors’ yards, but he was quick to pull a gun when one neighbor complained about it, and he didn’t hesitate to shoot, according to a witness who testified last week at Harris’ preliminary hearing.
Municipal Court Judge Patrick F. Dugan on April 3 ordered Harris, of the 6500 block of Torresdale Ave., to stand trial for murdering Franklin Miguel Santana on Feb. 14 in a dispute over dog doo-doo.
“When you hear ‘neighbors’ and ‘dog poop,’ then you hear ‘multiple gunshots,’ this case just doesn’t make sense,” Dugan said.
Another neighbor, Damon Smith, gave the eyewitness testimony implicating Harris, 27, in the slaying. He said he heard the defendant and the victim quarreling about Harris’ dogs on Harris’ porch.
An instant later, Santana, 47, was lying in a pool of blood with wounds of the face, neck, back, shoulder and “left flank,” according to an autopsy report. Paramedics pronounced Santana dead at the scene.
Smith was walking to the store with his wife at about 4 p.m. when he heard the commotion from Harris’ porch. The alleged shooter and victim were standing an arm’s length apart.
Santana said to Harris, “If I gotta come back up here, there’s gonna be a problem,” Smith testified.
“Then I guess Tyrirk did what he had to do,” the witness added. “I didn’t hear it clearly, but I think [Santana] did threaten Tyrirk.”
Harris responded, “What, are you threatening me?” Smith said.
Then the chaos began. Smith saw a gun in Harris’ hand, heard shots and dove for cover.
“I dove to the ground, dove on top of my wife. I don’t know where he shot him,” Smith said.
The witness testified that he heard six or seven shots. Then he got up and hurried to a corner store. A short time later, paramedics and police arrived and took Harris into custody, Smith said.
Authorities have said that Harris returned to his second-floor apartment after the shooting and was still in possession of the gun when police arrested him.
During last week’s hearing, Harris sat stoically, mostly with eyes staring forward blankly and arms outstretched, his palms resting on the defense table in front of him.
Smith was shocked by the sudden violence in broad daylight from a man, Harris, who he knew to be friendly.
“I didn’t hear no yelling or screaming (beforehand), none of that,” he testified.
In a statement to police soon after the incident, Smith told a similar but slightly different story about what he had seen and heard: “There was no arguing or fighting, no screaming. They were talking calm. I could hear (Santana) ask about Tyrirk’s dog poop on his lawn. … I saw Tyrirk pull the gun and shoot (Santana) in the face.”
When questioned by defense attorney Jack McMahon about the apparent discrepancy, Smith said he had been traumatized by the incident and he was unsure if he had seen bullets actually strike Santana.
Harris, who recently had been laid off from a job as a school police officer, did not have a license to carry a gun, Assistant District Attorney Deborah Watson-Stokes said.
Smith said he had met Santana only once, but that he and Harris had spoken numerous times.
“It was cool. We never had no animosity. It was ‘hi’ and ‘bye,’” Smith said. “I never hung at Tyrirk’s house and he never hung at my house. If we conversed, it was outside.”
Defense attorney McMahon argued that an intoxicated Santana threatened Harris and that Harris acted in self-defense. Santana’s blood-alcohol content was measured at .137 soon after the shooting.
“This person has obviously invaded [Harris’] domain, his castle. And this person makes threats to him with [Harris’] back to his front door,” McMahon said.
The defense attorney said that even if Harris had an unreasonable belief of self-defense — in that he erroneously believed that his safety was threatened — or if he acted “in the heat of passion,” his actions don’t rise to the level of murder. He asked Dugan to order an involuntary manslaughter trial.
Watson-Stokes argued that the number of shots fired, a half-dozen or more, showed murderous intent. Plus, no evidence showed that Santana had made any aggressive movements toward Harris.
Harris remains in jail without bail. He is scheduled for an April 24 Common Pleas Court arraignment. ••EndFragment