NEW ORLEANS -- As the family of an eastern New Orleans man shot and killed by New Orleans Police Friday raises serious concerns about what led to his death, police confirm they are asking the FBI to investigate.
In a brief statement issued Wednesday, police said Assistant Superintendent Marlon Defillo “has requested the Federal Bureau of Investigations (sic) to review the incident where Officer Stephen McGee fatally shot Brian Harris after officers were threatened.”
Police and the family of Harris, 39, have very different accounts of the moments leading up to his shooting by police inside his home in the 7700 block of Allison Road. Both agree that it began with a call for help by Harris’ wife.
“The 911 call was ‘I'm concerned for my husband. Can you send someone to help him,’” said Jason Williams, an attorney representing the family.
Harris' wife says she called 911 after fearing he may have taken too many sleeping pills.
“Without speaking to his wife, and without any counselors or social workers, they rushed into the home with weapons,” Williams said. “One was carrying an assault rifle.”
The officers then began speaking with Harris, who according to police, had barricaded himself in a bedroom.
Officers also said that he was armed with a knife. But Williams says it was in fact a pocket knife.
“At no point in time does the NOPD press release say he took the pen knife and charged at officers. Quite the opposite. The NOPD press release says Mr. Harris was found laying down in his bedroom,” Williams said.
The family says the whole exchange between Harris and the police took just 10 minutes. It ended with officers tasing Harris, then opening fire.
On the scene Friday night, Defillo said that shots were fired only after two officers tried to tase Harris, to no avail. Defillo even said that Harris pulled the taser prongs out of his body both times the officers attempted to use non-lethal force to subdue him.
Attorney Jason Williams says the shooting of Harris, the father of three young children, raises serious questions about the NOPD's policies and procedures, and not just in this case.
“Because what we have is an entire citizenry that has no faith, worse, disdain for law enforcement because of how they act, because of their disregard for human life and respect,” Williams said.
While stopping short of saying they'll file suit over his death, Harris' family is pleading for not just a police investigation, but a state or federal probe as well.
“A wife should be able to call for help to protect and serve. And she didn’t get that,” Williams said.
“He was a good man,” said Harris’ wife Tyralyn. “I called for help. I called for help. I don’t ever need the NOPD ever again, ever."