Local & Regional
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — The family of one of the men killed in a shootout with police early Monday morning is claiming that officers were out for blood.
Bakersfield police said Wednesday it was the suspect, 32-year-old Justin Harger, who shot first during the confrontation Monday at Four Points Sheraton hotel on California Avenue.
But, family and friends told Eyewitness News on Thursday it was all a setup – premeditated as early as 2006 when Harger's wife said officers approached her.
Harger, who has a criminal record, was on the run at the time.
"They were telling me, 'You should turn him in, he should come in, because if we find him, we're gonna kill him,'“ described Brandie Harger.
"'If we find him, were gonna shoot him,'" the wife continued to describe her conversation with officers.
Justin Harger’s mother, Shelia Somers, said police approached her, too, even last week, days before the shooting.
"They said they were gonna shoot him, and I said, ‘Don't hurt my boy, he's all I have.' And, they said, ‘Well, you’d better tell him.'" Continue story >>
Harger, a shooting suspect with the nickname of "Joker," was featured in last weekend's segment of Kern's Most Wanted with the U.S. Marshals office. Harger has been arrested numerous times with his first prison stint at age 18, according to Kern County court records.
Police department officials denied the accusations made by Harger's mother and wife.
"No such statements were made in this instance," said spokeswoman Michaela Sims. “Bakersfield police officers did make contact with Justin Harger's family within the past few weeks, and no such comments were made."
But, the accusations don't stop there. The family said the circumstances of the shootout with police look suspicious.
"There were no cameras there, no surveillance, it just so happened their cameras didn't work,” said Somers. “It just so happened there was no other witnesses. There are just too many things.”
Somers said she knows her son, and she said he wouldn't start a gun battle with police.
"He always looked out for everybody. That's why he would not have done that with that other man in the car, to have just one gun between the two of them," the mother said.
That other suspect killed in the gunfight with police was 34-year-old Jorge Ramirez. He, like Harger, died at the scene.
As far as the family is concerned, Harger was murdered.
"When we tell somebody, 'We're going to shoot somebody,' and we do, it's premeditated murder," Somers said. "When they say they're gonna shoot somebody and they do, it’s because they have to, its OK, that's not right."
The police department is conducting an internal administrative investigation as well as a criminal investigation connected to the shooting.
Police didn't say if the family’s accusations will be a part of any investigation.