Harrison investigation alive in Philly

Updated: April 21, 2010, 10:46 AM ET
By Shaun Assael | ESPN The Magazine

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia police are hoping a grainy surveillance video will help them find the killer of a man who alleged before he died of gunshot wounds last year that former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison helped arrange the hit.

No other evidence has surfaced to support the claim of Dwight Dixon, a 33-year-old ex-con who lapsed into a coma after he was shot July 21, 2009, and died six weeks later. But police are hoping that the video, taken by a store camera located near the shooting scene, will lead them to the killer.

Harrison
Harrison

According to two law enforcement sources, the July 21 video shows a gunman approach the driver's side of Dixon's Toyota Camry and shoot him five times. The gunman then went to the passenger's side of the car and fired two more shots. After that, the assailant walked out of camera range, removed a sweatshirt hood and returned to the scene just as a crowd was beginning to gather.

"It's eerie because Dixon is ready to pass out," said a source who saw the video. "The shooter comes back and starts talking to people in the crowd. He blends right in."

The shooting occurred shortly before noon on the corner of 28th Street and Girard Avenue in North Philadelphia, roughly a block from Playmakers, a bar owned by Harrison.

Police say Playmakers was the site of a dispute between the two men in April 2008 that allegedly started when Harrison refused to allow Dixon to enter because he was with an armed associate.

Three weeks later, the men ran into one another again near a garage Harrison owns in the neighborhood. According to an account that Dixon gave police, their jawing led to a fistfight that eventually was broken up by bystanders.

After Harrison retreated to his garage, Dixon got into his truck and backed up the street. The confrontation continued and an associate of Harrison's, Stanley McCray, told detectives that gunshots rang out in the middle of the argument.

"I called the cops," he said in a police interview obtained by "E:60." "After that I ducked." When asked who fired the gun, McCray replied, "I don't know, cause we was, I was up at the garage."

Dixon was shot in the hand. When "E:60" interviewed Dixon in February 2009, he identified Harrison as the shooter who wounded him.

"He raises the guns up and started shooting," Dixon said. "He had two guns in his hand. I'm furious, like the fact that Marvin Harrison's standing there with two guns. We arguing, and before I could pull off, he raises the guns up and started shooting."

Police later matched five shell casings found at the scene to a Belgian-made 5.7-caliber semiautomatic pistol that Harrison owns. Ballistics tests indicated it was the gun used in the crime.

In an interview with police a day after the April 2008 shooting, Harrison claimed the gun had been locked away at his home in suburban Jenkintown that day and hadn't been fired in months.

On Jan. 6, 2009, then-Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham held a news conference to say that she was "pretty comfortable" after a 10-month investigation that she knew who fired the gun. But she cited contradictory accounts from Dixon, who gave a false story about how he was shot when he initially sought medical help, and information from a second eyewitness as reasons she would not bring charges.

"I have to prove a case," she said. "With these witnesses, I don't think so."

Harrison was released by the Colts in February 2009 and disappeared into private life without talking to the media. Dixon was shot again five months later and eventually died.

Seth Williams, who took office in January as district attorney of Philadelphia, told "E:60" that he has reviewed the same statements as Abraham and is holding open the possibility that charges could still be filed against Harrison.

"We could prosecute Mr. Harrison for lying to the police officers and giving false statements if we had enough information," he said. "I know that's something [that has] been considered by prosecutors here in my office, and it's something that we will consider in the future."

But Williams, who called Harrison a "person of interest" in the 2008 case, said he's reluctant to consider charges before the 2009 shooting is investigated fully.

"E:60" has learned that police have information that suggests Dixon tried to implicate Harrison in that case, as well.

According to a copy of a police report obtained by "E:60," a police lieutenant told Dixon as he was being wheeled to the operating room of Hahnemann University Hospital, "You may not live. You should tell [me] who shot [you]."

Dixon's reply: "You know what it is. It is the same thing from last time, Marvin Harrison."

In the report, Lt. Marty Bernard wrote: "I stated again who shot you today as we were entering the surgery door. Dixon then replied, 'I will handle it myself.'"

Williams said Dixon's statements "seem like very powerful information." He also told "E:60" that "a layperson would jump to the conclusion that it's likely" the two shootings of Dixon are linked.

A lawyer for Harrison, Thomas Wagner, said that his client "emphatically denies" the allegations but would have no comment because of two pending civil suits from the 2008 incident.

One civil suit was filed by Dixon and is being pursued by his family. The second was filed by Robert Nixon, a bystander who claimed to see the shooting and was injured when a stray bullet lodged in his back.

Efforts to reach Harrison were unsuccessful. When an "E:60" camera crew filmed outside Playmakers in early April, an employee turned out the lights and dropped the bar's security gate.

Shaun Assael is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

• Senior writer for ESPN The Magazine
• Author of "Wide Open: Days and Nights on the NASCAR Tour"; the New York Times best-selling "Sex, Lies and Headlocks"; and "Steroid Nation"

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