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Protesters challenge state DOJ's handling of Wilmington Police shooting of carjacking suspect

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

Eighteen-year-old Yahim Harris was shot four times by a Wilmington Police officer in February while fleeing a vehicle after alleged involvement in a carjacking.

Last month, a state Department of Justice (DOJ) investigationconcluded the officer, James MacColl, was justified in shooting Harris, because he believed Harris was raising a weapon at him. According to the DOJ, police found a gun under the stolen vehicle, not on Yahim.

Harris’ mother Jonda Brown joined advocates Friday to protest the outcome of the DOJ investigation and the fact that Harris is being held on cash bail Browns says exceeds $130,000. Harris faces pending firearm, carjacking and other charges.

“I just pray that they release my son so that he can continue on with his life,” said Brown. 

Independent investigator and former Philadelphia police officer Terence Jones is working with Harris’ family, and disputes DOJ’s conclusion drawn from security camera footage from nearby businesses. “I looked at the same video. The video’s pretty clear that Yahim Harris had nothing in his hand. He was just trying to run away.” He also notes DNA testing on the gun found under the car revealed three male contributors, and did not conclusively match Harris’ DNA. 

State DOJ spokesman Mat Marshall said in an email the department was aware of the demonstration. "We have offered to meet with the family, and while they have not yet accepted the invitation we remain open to meeting with them when they are ready," he wrote. 

Brown says she would like to meet with DOJ officials, but was not able to meet them at their suggested time. 

Protesters also called for Wilmington Police to begin using body cameras. Department leadership has expressed support for them, but a city ordinance that would pay for a body camera program remains in committee. 

Wilmington Police Department spokesman David Karas noted investigations were started in February by the Criminal Investigations Division or the Office of Professional Standards within the police department, but declined to comment further. 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.