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Monday, January 12, 2009
Second Witness Points to Harrison


Another witness has pointed to Harrison.

The Philadelphia district attorney who decided last week against charging Marvin Harrison in connection with an April 29 shooting that left three people wounded did so despite being in possession of a statement from a second victim who claimed he saw the Indianapolis Colts wide receiver gripping a gun during the altercation, a law enforcement source told ESPN The Magazine. The statement by Robert Nixon would apparently corroborate the statement of Dwight Dixon, another shooting victim, and contradict Harrison, who admits that he was in a fistfight with Dixon but insists he was unarmed when gunfire erupted outside his North Philadelphia car wash, Chuckie's Garage, following the altercation. Three people were injured during the shooting. Dixon was shot in the left hand. Nixon was struck in his back by one of the shots that ricocheted up West Thompson Street. A third victim, a child sitting in a nearby car, suffered an eye injury from shattered glass. At a news conference on Tuesday, Philadelphia D.A. Lynne Abraham said she would not bring charges against Harrison, citing a lack of credible witnesses. "I'm pretty comfortable I know who fired the gun," Abraham said. "But I'm not going to say because I don't have the evidence." Nixon initially told police he knew nothing about what happened, but four days later he signed a statement saying he was positive that he saw Harrison with a gun in his hand at the time of the altercation, according to the source. In the statement, Nixon said he was standing about 50 feet from the car wash during the fight and was not involved.

In her news conference, Abraham cited problems with Nixon's recollection, saying he "admitted that he had fabricated many of the details" of his May 2 statement to police. The law enforcement source who has seen Nixon's second statement said that while elements of his story changed, Nixon's identification of Harrison remained consistent. The source added that Nixon spent two weeks in protective custody after giving police his second statement. Harrison, 36, did not respond to ESPN's requests for comment. Abraham could not be reached for comment Sunday, but has said that no statements or reports from the case will be made public.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said league officials were "following developments in the case," but added that given the district attorney's decision to not file charges there is "no basis for any disciplinary action." The Colts had no comment. According to police, the altercation involving Harrison and Dixon, 32, was sparked by a previous incident from two weeks earlier, when Dixon and a friend who was allegedly carrying a weapon attempted to enter Playmakers, a Philadelphia bar that Harrison also owns. When Harrison refused them entry, Dixon began arguing with him on the sidewalk. The resumption of that argument on April 29 led to the fistfight and, ultimately, gunfire, police say. 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 a civil suit, Dixon alleges that Harrison "intentionally" and "outrageously" shot him with a Belgian-made semi-automatic pistol, a collectors' weapon known for being easily concealed. Harrison had registered a weapon matching that description, but told police he did not have the gun with him in Philadelphia on April 29 and that the weapon had not been fired in at least one year. Ballistics tests later confirmed that five spent bullet shells found at the crime scene came from Harrison's gun. Dixon's attorney, Robert Gamburg, said Nixon's second, corroborating statement "shows that what Mr. Dixon said was 100 percent true. We've always maintained that."

Abraham did not attempt to reconcile that apparent contradiction in her news conference, but she did criticize Dixon's testimony, saying it is tainted by the fact that he initially gave at least two different versions of the event. "I don't believe it is appropriate to go to a grand jury with a case like this," she said. According to a summary of the evidence released Tuesday, Dixon initially gave a false name and told hospital employees and police that he was shot while resisting a robbery at a West Philadelphia intersection. Then, on April 30, Dixon told police he was shot at a different and distant intersection. Only after being confronted with the ballistic evidence did Dixon tell police he'd been shot by Harrison. Dixon's attorney, Robert Gamburg, said Nixon's second, corroborating statement "shows that what Mr. Dixon said was 100 percent true. We've always maintained that."

Gamburg said he hopes to depose Harrison within the next six weeks. Abraham said that she will review the depositions and called the potential to revisit the shooting an "open issue."