Northeast Times

Witness: Murder suspect pulled the trigger

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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. ••

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You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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