Killed for riding while poor


A young man was shot for not having a transfer

by Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia 

We sat together: elders, youth, workers, students and folks. We were on our way to a low-paid job, an overpriced university, a pre-gentrified home and a public school. There were laughter and shouts, murmurs and silence. Then suddenly, there were nine heavily armed police officers and fare inspectors walking through the crowded 14 Mission Muni line. One stopped in front of me and my son.

“I don’t have a transfer. I lost it,” I tentatively answered a cop who asked to see my paperwork as I clutched my son’s stroller and tried to see how close I was to the back door of the bus.

“We will have to write you a citation and you will have to step off the bus — now.” He was yelling at me and was flanked by another officer. I knew I couldn’t make a run for it, but I almost tried.

I thought of this moment when I heard about the 19-year-old man shot by the SFPD while running away from a Muni bus because he didn’t have a transfer in the Bayview July 16.

Shot and killed for not having $2 bus fare.

At a press conference held July 18 at the scene of the shooting, Joanne Abernathy from People Organized to Win Employment Rights made the point: “No one should be shot for not having enough money to ride the bus.”

For the last few years, police presence on Muni has increased — as have attacks on poor people and people of color whose only crime is not having enough money to ride the increasingly expensive so-called public transportation known as Muni. From fare inspectors working for Muni to fully armed officers, they form a terrifying mob waiting menacingly at bus stops in the Mission, Ingleside, Bayview and Tenderloin and then enter buses to harass, eject and cite anyone too poor to ride.

The police said the man pointed a gun. That’s what they consistently claim when rationalizing involved shootings. Several eyewitnesses said otherwise.

But before we get caught up in whether he had a gun or not, let’s stay with the real point: This young man was shot for not having a transfer. He was shot for not having $2. How did we get here?

Even if you are a supporter of the police, you have to see the “Les Miserables”-esque insanity in this shooting.

Police culture enables, allows and encourages the use of deadly force — so much so that it seems at times as if killing can happen for any old thing. Throw in institutional racism and classism, and more and more people will not only be incarcerated but killed with impunity.

“Don’t get on the bus again if you don’t have the fare or you might be arrested,” the cop on Muni told me. He ended by giving me a citation and kicking me off the bus. He should have added “killed” to his threat of what would happen to us for riding while poor.

Tiny, also known as Lisa Gray-Garcia, is coeditor of POOR Magazine. She can be reached at This story first appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.



  1. What a pile of manure. Where to begin.
    1) No one was shot for not having a transfer ticket. This is fantasy by those of the Perpetual Victim cult.
    2) There are witnesses who say he had a weapon and fired it at the police. No mention in your article though.
    3) Harding was a desperdo running from the Seattle where he was wanted for murder.

    Believe in invisible pink unicorns all you want, but don't infect others, you hack.

  2. Seamus, how can you open your mouth without having the facts. He was not wanted for murder, he was a possible suspect, but no confirmation he killed anyone. You say Witnesses said he "had" a gun, well, witnesses also said that "he didn't have a gun" Thank God/dess there is another point of view here on the web representing the people. "A pile of manure" ; Your words are stinky Seamus.

    • I have some facts straight.

      Being a possible suspect in a murder AND being wanted for a murder ARE NOT exclusive sets.
      Re witnesses, the ones who saw the gun videotaped themselves picking up the gun at the scene. That's strong evidence.

      The "manure" comment was offered to the writer because the author is excluding information from her article/argument, presumably to enhance the appearance of truth. That's bad stuff logic and truth-wise speaking. Note the thesis thingy, "[Harding was] Killed for riding while poor". This statement is wanting badly when you look at the available information.


  3. I dont want no punk in the neihgborhood causing all sorts of trouble. He done raped a girl up in seatle, then kill some other girl. He shootin up the neihgborhood. He shot cus he shot at the cops, not cus he have no tickit.
    Glad he gone.

  4. Since it appears that there is more than one side to this story, your headline, “Killed for riding while poor,” is utterly disturbing. Let us please get caught up in whether he had a gun or not instead of trying to push your agenda! If in fact this young man had a gun, as it shows in the video, and if it is in fact proven that he shot at officers first, then I’m sorry, but this gentleman was JUSTIFIABLY shot. Perhaps you may want to reconsider your headline as the “facts” of this case appear murky at best. Whatever the final outcome, a life was lost, and that is a tragedy, however, if I were to shoot at someone, police officer or not, I would expect that person to retaliate

  5. I love the "too poor to ride" nonsense. A pass is $62 a month. So are the people who are claiming they are too poor to ride taking care of necessities first? So no alcohol, junk food, movies, entertainment, non-work related clothes, no brand name clothes, etc?

    • Too poor to ride the train.

      Not poor enough to buy a gun, nor somehow get to sf from Seattle.

      Or wait, let me guess he rode the freight rails down here…

  6. i see ppl hop on mini all the time and not pay.. he ran coz he was dirty,, police brutality sure it happens all round the globe. but police dont shoot sum1 coz he's running that's pathetic.. use of deadly force is legal IF: the police or law enforcement's life or the surrounding public's life is in danger.. does it get abused sure.. how does a gun get 20ft from the victim. on that day, precisely that time, on that block.. ? if he didnt shoot how to get from his pants to that locattion.. guns dont fall from the sky. someone had to have dropped it there.. was it his. i guess the finger prints were wiped clean?

  7. They didn't shoot him because he ran, they shot him because he shot at them first.

    So the only thing I can see the police being guilty of is this: they didn't miss.

    The police have backed up their story with physical evidence: a gun that can be seen at the scene of the shooting, on a video that's available on YouTube.

    Moreover, the police say they've found powder burns consistent with firing a gun on the man's hands.

    It's terrible that this young man died, but if the police story checks out — and it ought to be checked out thoroughly — I do not understand what they could have done differently.

  8. A very nice piece of writing. Thank you very much for this. What you say is so true that it is painful to read. Thank you again.

  9. Not excusing Harding's background (if that is even true) but if this young man truly "killed himself" then why wasn't it reported by the witnesses and bystanders? To all of the usual un-articulating critics and pro-police, ya'll need to think about the never-ending battles against cover ups. I personally, know first hand experience how this department can blatantly lie to your faces, and attempt to make others believe that it is true……because they are the police. Even gave them the benefit of a doubt, until that bombshell came out last week about his "self-inflicted wound."

    Anyone awake out there?

    I wonder if these "critics" would feel this way if they experience police brutality and misconduct. So f@#K ridiculous how people buy into and believe the bull@## they're told.

    • Hello,

      U ask:
      "if this young man truly "killed himself" then why wasn't it reported by the witnesses and bystanders?"

      Witnesses have reported seeing Harding fire a weapon. It's just not reported here in this Bayview website.

      & I have been mistreated by police officers. In Orange County a police officer told me he was paid to put people in the hospital and that if he wanted he could beat me up badly and no one would know where I was till Monday morning. I've been aided by them too after a nasty kerfuffle. Gotta stay objective or you start looking for stuff that backs up your subjective feelings.

      The truth will set you free.

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