FERGUSON, Mo. — Despite his son’s troubled past, Tyrone Harris Sr. maintained a stubborn hope for his namesake. But on Sunday night, Tyrone Harris Jr. was hanging with the wrong crowd again, his relatives said.
As protesters descended on West Florissant Avenue to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, Harris Jr., 18, was on the edges of the peaceful protest, accompanying a group trying to pawn off a looted flat-screen TV.
The complicated series of events that followed led to a fate for Harris that was eerily similar to that of his former high school schoolmate: shot by police, blood spilling from his shirt, lying in a street just a few blocks from the street where Brown, 18, died.
On Monday night, Harris remained in critical condition. Now, his father is keeping a stubborn hope that his son will stay alive.
“My son’s fingerprints are not on that gun,” he said. “He was gunned down like a hog.”
Throughout Monday, as friends and family members streamed in and out of the elder Harris’s red brick home in St. Louis, there were words of grief and words of anger. People said little about Harris, with his innocent eyes and easy smile, aside from the fact that he is a “good kid.”
“He made some mistakes,” said the elder Harris, a landscaper. “He was pulling it together. And then, this happened.”
In November, the younger Harris and a friend led police on a high-speed car chase while driving a stolen vehicle. Police charged Harris with auto theft, theft of a firearm and resisting arrest. After that, the father said his son had started going to church and taking school more seriously. He had dreams of being an electrician, his mother’s profession.
Lucille Harris, 80, said her grandson has had some behavioral problems; he also had been suspended from Normandy High School, where he was a year behind Brown. Both were in an alternative education program for students who had fallen behind on high school credit, said John Kennedy, the school’s football coach.
But where Brown was known as reserved and respectful, Harris was considered a charming troublemaker, outgoing but disruptive, said faculty and staff members who interacted with both teenagers.
“I wish we could have gotten him on the right page,” Kennedy said of Harris.
Still, Harris’s girlfriend, Qunesha Coley, 18, said he worked hard to graduate.
“He didn’t want to be one of those African Americans that’s known for going to jail and getting a GED,” Coley said. “He made it through, and I salute him so much for that.”
The couple, who began dating in November, rarely talk about Brown, Coley said. Occasionally, they drove past Brown’s memorial. Once, she said, they got out of the car and took pictures.
On Sunday, she said, they went to Ferguson to mark the anniversary of Brown’s death. There, she said, they met up with some friends, who had stolen the television. When they tried to sell the TV to another group of young men, she said, the rival group drew their guns and started shooting.
Harris was running away when he saw an unmarked police car that had just begun to flash its lights, Coley said. According to police, Harris shot at the car’s grill, hood and windshield, drawing police fire.
But Harris’s relatives — as well as some witnesses — said police got the wrong guy.
“He was supposed to leave with me,” Coley said. “But he ended up leaving in an ambulance.”
Wan and Samuels reported from Washington. Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins in Washington contributed to this report.