‘It just wasn’t right’: Neighbors dispute police account of shooting

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Neighbors of 20-year-old Earl Pinckney, shot and killed in his uptown home Sunday night by police, dispute the account investigators gave to reporters late Monday morning, saying officers acted recklessly.

They’re calling into question the good relationship police Chief Thomas Carter says his officers have with the community. Residents in that neighborhood say they don’t trust Harrisburg police and are afraid to call the cops even if they need help.

“For something like that to happen, it’s just a sad situation, that’s all,” Leonard McDonald said Monday. He lives across the street from Pinckney’s home.

“Just imagine how his mom, sisters, family feel,” he said.

The two were close; McDonald said Pinckney was a new father, a “very happy father.”

“If you knew him, you would feel the same way I feel right now,” he said. “If you knew him, he, I mean, all smiles. Every time you’d see him he was smiling.”

McDonald said the police account is “totally untrue,” that the young man did not have a knife to his mom’s throat, that police shot him just 10 or 15 seconds after going inside. He said Pinckney’s mother watched the news conference live and was upset with what she heard.

“It just wasn’t right,” he said. “I could see that from a mile. It was just, you know, it wasn’t handled right.”

“There’s always going to be different accounts,” said Kevin Dolphin, who runs the community and prison outreach group Breaking the Chainz.

Dolphin, who said he “used to be the biggest problem in this city” before changing his ways, is not blaming the officers without first knowing all the facts, but he said police and the community represent different cultures.

“I feel that the officers’ social skills are not at the level of where they need to be to be able to, like I said, to be able to interact with us,” Dolphin said. “To understand this culture diversity, you have to sit down and be able to educate one another.”

At the news conference, he asked Carter and others to do just that, to meet with community organizers like himself to talk about how they can find common ground in the face of tension.

“If we can’t come together and trust one another, then really — and I don’t like to say no hope — but really there’s no hope,” he said.

Like many others, he’s urging calm.

“The community needs to take a deep breath,” retired state police Lt. Col. Rick Brown said. “This won’t be figured out overnight. There’s a lot of work that has to be done.”

Brown, who spent more than 29 years on the force and now runs the accountability advocacy group Transparency Matters, is confident in Dauphin County’s investigators.

“If there’s accountability to be assessed,” he said, “they will make the hard call either way.”

McDonald isn’t so sure.

“The relationship between police and the citizens here,” he said, “it might be quiet because too much may not happen in that way, but it’s not a good thing.”

The hurt his community feels runs deeper than this.

“I just hope that things can get better here in the city,” he said.

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