Monday, July 27, 2009
Man claims Harrison shot him
By Shaun Assael
ESPN The Magazine
A Philadelphia man who claims he was caught in the crossfire during a shooting rampage by Marvin Harrison is suing the former All-Pro wide receiver, saying that a bullet fired by Harrison is still lodged in his back.
In the suit, Robert Nixon, 33, claims he saw Harrison shoot at another man with guns in each of his hands on April 29, 2008, and continue to fire when the target fled the scene in his car. He said Harrison "continued shooting at the other person ... as [he] drove past plaintiff. In doing so, a bullet from defendant's handgun struck plaintiff in the back with great force and violence."
The seven-count suit alleges assault, battery negligence and reckless misconduct.
It is the second suit against Harrison in connection with the shooting on West Thompson Street, where Harrison owns a car wash and garage. The man he allegedly fired on, Dwight Dixon, filed a suit last year that accused Harrison of retaliating for a shouting match that turned physical when the two traded punches. Dixon claimed he was shot "intentionally" and "outrageously."
In a bloody twist last week, Dixon was gunned down by an unknown assailant as he sat in another car, just blocks from where the April 2008 shooting occurred. Police say an assailant approached the driver's side of his Toyota Camry and fired four times, then shot through the back window before unloading two more slugs in the passenger side. Video surveillance taken by a camera at a nearby store shows the gunman -- wearing a hooded sweatshirt, jeans and white sneakers -- fleeing with his head lowered and face obscured. Dixon was struck in the chest, stomach and arm.
Dixon told police that he believed the shooting was linked to the earlier incident. But authorities have no evidence to back up the claim and have not been able to interview Dixon, who is listed as being in critical condition at Hahnemann University Hospital. Dixon's attorney, Robert Gamburg, said his client has been slipping in and out of a coma.
In interviews with police last year, Harrison acknowledged quarreling with Dixon. He also surrendered a rare Belgium 5.7-caliber handgun, fully loaded, to police who questioned him at his garage. According to prosecutors, ballistics tests later showed that the gun fired five of the six cartridge casings that were found at the shooting scene.
But while Harrison admitted to being in his garage during the melee, he denied having the gun with him that day, saying it was in his suburban home. Police and prosecutors have yet to reconcile how the gun could have been in Harrison's home if it was used to shoot Dixon.
In the first shooting incident, Stanley McCray, an employee of Harrison's, told police that he saw Dixon with a weapon but did not see him raise or fire it.
In January, Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham said she would not file criminal charges because the case was steeped in conflicting witness accounts. She specifically mentioned Nixon, who initially told police he knew nothing about what happened but four days later signed a statement saying he was positive that he saw Harrison with a gun. Abraham said Nixon, who has a rap sheet for petty drug possession and is currently in jail for illegally having prescription pain pills, "admitted that he had fabricated many of the details."
But a law enforcement source who has seen Nixon's statements to police disagrees. The source told ESPN that while certain elements of Nixon's story changed, his identification of Harrison remained consistent after he began cooperating. Indeed, police were so confident in his account that they placed him in protective custody for two weeks last spring. Nixon left the custody voluntarily.
A spokesman for Abraham did not return a call today seeking comment about whether Nixon's suit would prompt her to reconsider opening the case.
The NFL has previously decided that, given the district attorney's decision, there is "no basis for any disciplinary action" against Harrison.
Harrison, a 13-year NFL veteran with possible Hall of Fame credentials, was released at his own request by the Colts at the end of last season after being asked to take a pay cut. He is currently trying to secure a free-agent contract.
Shaun Assael is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.