On this there's agreement: Raheem Howard fled from the traffic stop conducted by Baton Rouge police officer Yuseff Hamadeh on Aug. 7 about 6:30 p.m. He ran down North 16th Street, then cut between houses toward North 15th Street. Hamadeh chased him. Howard entered the back door of a home on North 15th Street while the cop went to the front door. Before Hamadeh entered, Howard was off and running again.
Police and witnesses disagree about what happened next.
Investigators say that, as Howard ran from the home, he turned and fired a handgun once at the officer, prompting Hamadeh to return fire: Two shots.
But those who live in the Northdale neighborhood just west of Scenic Highway behind Memorial Stadium recall it differently: There was only one shot.
No one was hit or injured in the shooting — but the stakes remain high: police revealed this week there is no body or dash camera video from the incident and no weapon was recovered.
Howard, 21, was arrested on attempted murder of a police officer, which is classified as attempted first-degree murder, and sits in jail in lieu of a $90,000 bond. Upon his arrest, Howard admitted running from police after the traffic stop but said video footage would exonerate him by showing he did not have a weapon and did not fire at the officer.
Hamadeh, who had stopped the car because of a missing license plate, was placed on paid administrative leave after the incident but has since returned to work on restricted duty. Hamadeh was also involved in a June 2017 officer shooting, where he fatally shot Jordan Frazier after police say Frazier pointed a weapon at officer. Police are working the Howard case both as administrative and criminal investigations.
Anthony Kling, 41, said he was on North 15th Street hanging out when Howard ran down a cut-through from North 16th Street with Hamadeh in pursuit. Both passed by him.
According to Kling and police, Howard ran into the backyard of a home at 2024 N. 15th Street and entered the home from the back. The officer kicked in the front door to the home, Kling said, but before the officer entered, Howard had already exited through the back and taken off again.
Kling said he heard a gunshot come from the home the officer had just entered, but did not directly see Hamadeh shoot. (Police later acknowledged the officer fired his weapon.) By then, Howard had already made it two houses down the street, Kling said. Howard paused for a bit, then started running again. The officer exited the house soon after the gunshot and gave up the chase.
Kling said he never saw Howard with a weapon.
"That guy ain't have a gun," Kling said.
Kling told The Advocate he did not recognize the man he saw running from police, and when asked about Raheem Howard, he said he did not know the name.
The police account of the pursuit largely matches Kling's until right before the shooting:
"He ran into the residence of 2024 N. 15th Street," police wrote in Howard's arrest warrant. "The subject was able to close and lock the rear door of the residence. The office forcefully entered the front door of the residence in 'hot pursuit,' when he saw the same subject flee the rear (of) the residence."
The warrant says Howard ran out of the house, jumped a fence in the backyard and then "the officer observed the suspect turn, point the handgun at him and fire a single shot from the weapon," the report says. "The officer was not struck. Fearing for his life, the officer returned fire, once, not striking the subject."
Kling said he told an officer the night of the shooting that he had witnessed the confrontation but that investigators did not interview him.
Baton Rouge Police spokesman Sgt. Don Coppola Jr. declined to discuss Kling's account and said he hoped Kling would contact the department's Violent Crimes Unit or Crimestoppers.
This week, after the department had initially denied a records request for video from the incident, Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul admitted there was no video of the traffic stop and subsequent chase because the officer's body camera and dashboard camera were off. Paul said the rear-facing camera on Hamadeh's patrol car recorded some audio, but no video, and a citizen captured the initial traffic stop on video. He chose not to release any of the evidence.
Two women who live down the block from where the Aug. 7 shooting occurred both said they heard a gunshot— and are adamant they only heard one.
"It wasn’t shooting, it was one shot, but who shot it I could not say," said Wanda Henry, 51.
She said she was the front yard of her home on North 16th Street when the police unit first pulled over Howard's vehicle. She said she saw the man almost immediately get out and cut through the yards toward N. 15th Street, followed by the officer. She said the officer immediately put his hand on his gun holster as he began chasing the suspect, but she did not see him draw the weapon.
Soon after the men ran out of her sight, she said she heard one gunshot.
Her neighbor, Angela Perkins, also said she could not see who fired the shot, but said she did not hear an exchange of gunfire. Perkins first spoke to The Advocate the night of the shooting, but this week she reiterated what she heard that night.
"Wrong is wrong, right is right, that's how I am," Perkins said. "That day it was only one shot, it was only one shot."