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Family of man shot by FBI raises questions about shooting

The family of a man fatally shot by FBI agents conducing a surveillance earlier this year on Reisterstown Road is questioning police tactics and the finding by prosecutors that the use of deadly force during a car stop was justified.

While relatives of Jameel Kareem Ofurum Harrison acknowledge that he had a criminal record, they deny police descriptions of him as a gang member, and say they didn't give him a chance to get out his car and surrender before firing 19 rounds, hitting the 34-year-old six times.

"They still haven't come to tell me the reason why? I just wanted an explanation, why you all did it?" said Harrison's mother, Michael Elliott.

When police pulled Harrison over in a rental car outside a Sam's Club in Owings Mills on April 11, it was not a routine stop. Authorities say Harrison was a member of the Black Guerrilla Family gang, which has been blamed for waves of violence in Baltimore over the past several years.

Harrison was under surveillance as part of a federal narcotics investigation, according to a Baltimore County police report obtained by The Baltimore Sun. A Baltimore County police detective and four FBI agents were watching Harrison. Reports identify them as agents Nye, James, Reagan, and Lipsner. The report doesn't provide the agents' first names or identify who fired upon Harrison.

At the time of the shooting, police released few details, though a more detailed account of the shooting has since emerged. A investigative report written Baltimore County police, reviewed by state's attorney's office, obtained by The Baltimore Sun, says Harrison "put the vehicle in reverse, accelerated past two witness vehicles, then struck a third witness vehicle." Harrison then "made a movement that placed three agents in fear of death or injury, causing them to discharge their weapons."

The report said the agents told Harrison numerous times to raise his hands and exit the car, but he did not comply with the orders. The report says his foot was on the accelerator. It also says several phones were recovered from the vehicle but does not mention that any drugs or weapons were found.

Last month, Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger said his office will not charge the agents, saying they justifiably feared their lives when Harrison rammed his car into an officer's car in attempt to flee a car stop. The redacted report does not name the agents.

FBI spokeswoman Amy J. Thoreson said the investigation and the internal review of the shooting remain open.

"Our shooting reviews can take months to complete because they are designed to be comprehensive and thorough," Thoreson said.

The shooting will be reviewed by the Shooting Incident Review Group that is made up of members from the FBI and the Department of Justice, which will determine "the reasonableness of the application of deadly force in accordance with the Department of Justice's deadly force policy and the law," an agency statement said.

The agency declined to name the agents' because "our practice dictated by the Privacy Act doesn't allow us to release the names of anyone we are investigating," Thoreson said.

She said the investigation involving Harrison that led to the shooting also remains open.

"I can't discuss why we were there because that information is part of a pending criminal investigation," she said.

Court records show Harrison had a lengthy criminal record that involves drug-related offenses. But Harrison's mother said that after serving jail time for selling drugs, he was working at an auto dealership and focusing on raising his daughter.

The week he was killed, she said he had returned from a trip to Florida, where his friend was doing concert promotions for the rapper 2 Chainz. He returned late Wednesday night, she said, and stopped by her work Thursday night — the last time she saw him.

"They didn't give him a chance," she said. "I could see if my son had a gun," she said, saying she didn't understand why they had to stop him then if he had been under surveillance.

Later that night, after reports has already flashed across her TV screen of a fatal shooting in Owings Mills, she said the FBI agents came to her home and confirmed to her what she already knew.

"They couldn't even look in my face. Just said, 'that was your son.' Then they were gone."

Her long-term boyfriend, who helped raise Harrison, Jody Whiting, said he knew Harrison sold drugs in the past but did not believe him to still be involved, nor that he was ever affiliated with a gang.

He said he feels authorities are quick to throw around the BGF label given the large investigation into the Baltimore City jail where authorizes say the gang had far-reaching. Whiting and never knew Harrison to be violent or possess a weapon.

Elliott said she's angered that no one from the agency has since reached out to her.

"They are going to get away with it," she said.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/janders5

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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