An organization in DeLand, a Florida city located 34 miles north of Orlando, has been raising money in support of a city police officer fired after running over a suspect with his patrol car earlier this year. The organization’s method of raising the money?
Selling $5 tickets for a raffle, in which the winner will receive an AR-15 rifle. Tickets were sold in the “poker room” at OB’s Restaurant and Lounge, as well as at a local firearms manufacturer called Tactical Machining.
The officer in question is James Harris, and the money is being raised to cover his legal fees accumulated in a suit involving the victim’s family, to which the City of DeLand paid a $500,000 settlement.
The victim of Harris’s case was 38-year-old Marlon Brown, who allegedly refused to pull over when Harris’s patrol car flagged him for a seatbelt violation. According to a friend’s account, Brown was driving on a suspended license and afraid of what would happen if he pulled over. When Harris continued pursuing Brown, Brown jumped out of his car and took off running on foot. Harris smashed through a fence of a nearby field, crushing and ultimately killing Brown under the weight of his car and the fence. After the incident, Harris was relieved of his duties as a police officer.
A flier promoting the raffle of the AR-15 explained the events in a manner which seemed to indicate Harris’s innocence. “While he was attempting in good faith to fulfill his duties Officer James Harris was involved in an on-duty incident after the suspect came towards his vehicle which resulted in the accidental collision resulting in the tragic death,” the flier reads.
The Brown family, however, believes that Harris’s actions (supported by newly emerged video evidence) could be enough to justify a vehicular homicide charge.
The raffle for the AR-15 took place on a pontoon boat away from spectators, and the organization in charge of the event stated that they would notify the winner of the firearm via telephone. All proceeds not required for Harris’s legal fees, the amount of which has not been disclosed, are to be donated to the Wounded Warrior Foundation, according to the organization.