Tyrirk Harris had a problem curbing his pets, but a Philadelphia judge had no problem curbing Harris, the Tacony man who killed a neighbor last year in a dispute over dog droppings.
Common Pleas Court Judge Barbara McDermott on Friday ordered Harris to serve 20 to 40 years in state prison for shooting an unarmed Franklin Manuel Santana to death on Valentine’s Day 2012. McDermott said she was “appalled” by Harris’ behavior and rejected his pleas for leniency.
Assistant District Attorney Deborah Watson-Stokes, the lead prosecutor, and defense attorney James Berardinelli reportedly both cited the sentence as fair considering the circumstances.
The shooting occurred on the porch of Harris’ house on the 6500 block of Torresdale Ave. Santana, who lived on the same block, approached Harris’ place at about 4 p.m. to complain that Harris, 28, had allowed his two dogs — a German shepherd and a Chihuahua — to defecate on Santana’s lawn, but Harris did not clean up the mess.
Harris greeted Santana, 47, with a gun strapped to his hip. They exchanged angry words. Harris fired about a half-dozen shots at close range, wounding Santana in the face, neck, shoulder, back and left buttocks area. Santana died at the scene.
At a February trial, Harris claimed he acted in self-defense, that Santana had lunged for his 9-millimeter pistol and a struggle ensued. The defense also noted that Santana had a blood-alcohol content of 0.137 soon after the shooting.
“I didn’t intend to kill this man,” Harris testified.
But during a preliminary hearing last April, a witness testified that the shooting had erupted with little warning. One moment, Harris and Santana were speaking, or perhaps arguing, without any physical contact. The next moment, bullets were flying, the witness said.
During the trial, Watson-Stokes argued that the number of shots fired demonstrated Harris’ intent to kill and that the case warranted a first-degree murder conviction. A jury acquitted Harris of the first-degree charge, but convicted him of third-degree murder as well as possessing an instrument of crime.
Harris, who had been laid off from a job as a public school police officer, was not licensed to carry the gun. The jury acquitted him of multiple weapons charges. McDermott ordered Harris to serve 19-38 years in state prison for the murder, followed by one to two years for the possession conviction. ••