The police shooting that left Vincent Harris dead inside a Tigerland apartment earlier this week wasn't his first confrontation with Baton Rouge law enforcement, and his history of violence — both domestic and otherwise — was no secret to the officers who arrived on scene.
The department issued an internal bulletin several weeks ago warning officers that Harris was considered armed and dangerous — and that he might have intentions of resisting arrest or even committing "suicide by cop." A department spokesman confirmed Tuesday that the bulletin was distributed and confirmed its language.
Harris, 51, was shot and killed early Monday after he pointed a gun at police, officials said. Bodycam footage of the encounter shows Harris emerging from an apartment doorway with a firearm in his right hand just moments before officers unleashed more than a dozen rounds in his direction.
Officers were attempting to arrest him on a warrant that was issued in early May and they had received a tip sometime after midnight Monday that Harris was staying at the apartment complex on Tigerland Avenue. The warrant included several recent accusations of domestic abuse, including attacking his girlfriend with a machete and almost slicing off her fingers.
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Court records show this wasn't the first time Harris faced serious domestic violence allegations — nor was it the first time he displayed threatening behavior toward police.
Officers responded to another Tigerland address in 2016 after an anonymous caller reported that a woman "was about to get shot and killed," according to police reports. Harris answered the door holding what appeared to be a semiautomatic pistol in one hand and initially disobeyed commands from police to "get on the ground." Finally he did drop his weapon and was taken into custody.
Police later discovered Harris' weapon was a BB gun designed to look like a pistol.
The victim told officers Harris had hit her with a box fan and then pulled a knife and the pistol replica on her. He told the victim he would kill her and himself, according to the report.
Harris later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor simple battery in that case and was sentenced to six months in jail.
That incident occurred about three years after an earlier domestic violence complaint, which also landed Harris in jail. The victim in that case told police she was scared for her safety because Harris had slapped her. She also directed officers to a "sawed off" shotgun in the residence.
After officers informed Harris he was being placed under arrest, he ran off but was taken into custody a short distance away, according to police reports. Court records show he was never charged in that case.
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Details of the most recent allegations against him, which led to the shooting early Monday, are more serious.
Harris' girlfriend talked to police after she ended up in the hospital with severe cuts to the fingers on her right hand. She told officers the violence had escalated over several days, beginning when Harris questioned her about a call she received from her ex-boyfriend and then started punching and held her against her will.
The final incident occurred when the two started arguing and Harris grabbed a "long edged weapon" that the victim called a machete, according to the arrest warrant. She placed her hands over her head to protect herself from the blade, which sliced into her fingers as Harris continued swinging the weapon near her face. Medical staff later told police all four fingers on the victim's right hand had been cut to the bone, and she underwent surgery to repair severed nerves. Officers observed that she had stitches on that hand and bruises across her body.
Baton Rouge police had been searching for Harris since the warrant was issued in early May. They had posted his name on the local Crime Stoppers website, which prompted multiple recent tips about his whereabouts, including the one on Monday that led officers to the Tigerland apartments.
Police declined to comment on whether the gun Harris pointed at officers during that encounter was a replica or the real thing. They also declined to specify whether Harris fired any shots, but it appears from the bodycam footage that all the gunfire came from the officers.
A woman was also arrested on the scene and accused of helping to hide Harris from police. Cynthia Williams answered the door when officers arrived and told them she didn't know where Harris was, according to police. But officers later discovered he was hiding in the bathroom. That's when the encounter quickly escalated into shots fired.
Williams, 50, was booked into jail on accessory after the fact to the following counts: attempted second-degree murder, aggravated second-degree battery, second-degree kidnapping and domestic abuse battery.
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