Witness describes events leading to shooting by police
“She was troublesome at times, but she was a sweetheart. She was just a baby.” Suncere mc zeal, Darneisha Harris’ aunt
BREAUX BRIDGE — Family members say Darneisha Harris panicked Sunday night as she tried to escape from a fight on Landry Street.
The girl, who would have turned 17 next week, drove her car into a police car and struck a bystander before a Breaux Bridge police officer shot and killed her.
“They make it seem like she was driving the car recklessly,” Harris’ aunt, Suncere McZeal, said. “She was 16. She was afraid. She was trying to get away from them. Her family is really hurting. Nobody has any answers.”
Questions surround the events that led up to Harris being shot and killed by a police officer responding to a disturbance in the 900 block of Landry Street at 7:40 p.m. Sunday.
The incident is under investigation by State Police.
The name of the officer and other details of the incident — such as whether Harris’ car was still in motion when the officer fired — have not been released.
Breaux Bridge Police Chief P.J. Hebert did not respond to requests both Monday and Tuesday for comment or a copy of the initial incident report.
State Police said Harris was driving a 2005 Toyota Corolla when she struck the front of a police car on Landry Street. Harris put the car in reverse, struck a parked car and then drove forward through a ditch, striking a bystander and another parked car.
After she drove into the police car and a parked vehicle on the street, three police officers started chasing her car, said Churphy Steward, who said he witnessed the shooting.
“She came in my mom’s yard and hit my momma and hit the vehicle in the driveway,” Steward said.
Fluorescent orange paint stripes Tuesday marked where the Corolla came to a stop in Steward’s mother’s yard. A small, neon pink flag marked the spot where his mother was standing when she was struck by Harris’ car.
After she was hit, Steward said, he ran toward the officer approaching Harris’ car and started shouting.
“He pointed the gun in my face,” Steward said, adding the officer ordered him to “back up.”
“I was hollering because my mom had been hurt,” he said.
State Police said Monday they were still trying to determine whether Harris’ car was moving when the officer fired.
But Steward said Harris’ car was stopped in the driveway when the officer approached the driver’s side window and fired his gun into it.
“He was that close,” Steward said, standing where Harris’ Corolla had stopped. “You could tell that was a child behind the wheel.”
While he did not want to release his mother’s name, Steward said she sprained her ankle and was scraped and bruised when she fell after being hit by the car.
Harris went to the house on Landry Street because others were instigating a fight with her, Dartaniel Lewis, Harris’ 18 year-old brother, said.
“She panicked about the situation,” Lewis said. “It wasn’t her intention on hitting people or running into the cop car. She’s 16 years old. She was only trying to save her life. She panicked and hit the police car, and they didn’t even give her a chance.”
His sister was an outgoing and caring person, Lewis said.
“She always helped any and everybody,” he said. “I know there’s nothing we can do to bring her back. We just want justice to be served.”
Harris had been attending Breaux Bridge High School and had been out of school for a while, McZeal said.
“She was ready to go back and was going to start Monday at Northside High (in Lafayette),” her aunt said.
The teenager would have celebrated her 17th birthday Tuesday, McZeal said.
“She was troublesome at times, but she was a sweetheart,” McZeal said. “She was so loving and caring. She was just a baby.”