Pierce County Council candidate defends decision to fire gun at suspected car thief

Jun 2, 2022, 6:09 PM

Josh Harris (Courtesy of Pierce County Council)...

Josh Harris (Courtesy of Pierce County Council)

(Courtesy of Pierce County Council)

A Pierce County Council candidate fired multiple rounds from a handgun at an auto-theft suspect Monday near a homeless encampment while police were within earshot, according to Tacoma police and the Pierce County prosecutor’s office.

On the day of the incident, Josh Harris set out in search of what he described as a stolen vehicle at a homeless encampment, where he soon summoned police. The incident led to the suspected car thief allegedly trying to get away by driving toward Harris, and Harris firing a handgun at the car and its fleeing driver.

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“He came barreling around the corner up the hill at me and I had nowhere to go. And he was probably going at 40-plus miles an hour,” Harris said on the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “I drew my firearm and he continued coming at me, so I fired on him. He hit the eco-block and then he continued to try and go forward on me, so I fired again. He then put it in reverse.

“As the officers were coming up the hill, I raised my firearm to let him know I wasn’t firing anymore,” Harris continued. “They back down on the officers, which the officers had the right to defend themselves, but are so afraid to do so with the current climate and legislation that we got floating around in this state. I thought one [officer] was going to get hit.”

The Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said it will investigate the incident to determine whether Josh Harris will face criminal charges, or whether his gunfire was justified in self-defense.

“I know there are people now talking about, well, is it a conflict of interest because of supporting the police officers last year, which those officers don’t run the department obviously,” Harris said.

Harris was referencing a decision last year, when he posted a $300,000 bail bond for three Tacoma officers charged with killing Manny Ellis, whose suffocation death sparked widespread protests in 2020.

“And just to clarify, it wasn’t because I thought they were good guys that I bailed them out,” Harris said when asked why he posted bail for the three officers. “It’s that I did the research and read the CAD files, their radio reports. But you know, it’s an agenda that’s been fueled by some of the media and certain groups, and even the headlines they use against these officers are unjust and reckless to be honest with you.”

It remains unclear whether the suspect was wounded by Harris’ gunfire or in the course of fleeing. He was detained and hospitalized and is expected to be booked in jail in Pierce County upon his release.

“Fact is, we have such an issue right now. This individual should have never been on the street,” Harris said. “Now that I’ve found out who it is, it’s this guy who’s been down by our business randomly shooting at cars. I don’t know why they would want to spin the truth.”

The Seattle Times reported on the incident involving Harris, which brought up his direct personal connection to the police department, including being the reason three officers are free on bail who are charged with major felonies. The article also reported Harris’ brother worked at the department as a chaplain until he was removed over controversially raising money for these officers.

“There’s definitely a question very central to this: What is the threshold? What is the red line?” asked Patrick Malone, the Seattle Times reporter who wrote the article, on the Gee and Ursula Show on KIRO Newsradio. “That constitutes a relationship that is too cozy, too friendly between the department and a private citizen, that would allow them to objectively accomplish an investigation.”

The Tacoma Police Department, as of this point, will not admit Josh Harris was the one involved in the shooting Monday, according to Malone.

Harris is currently running for council on a pro-law enforcement platform. He has raised more than $20,000 for his election as of this reporting.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Pierce County Council candidate defends decision to fire gun at suspected car thief