The death of Anthony Harden was investigated by the State Police Detective Unit assigned to the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office under the direction of the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office.  Pursuant to Massachusetts law, the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office is responsible for determining whether a crime or crimes were committed during the death of Mr. Harden.[3]  Consistent with our practice in investigations such as this, an Assistant District Attorney who prosecutes homicides was assigned to conduct the investigation.  That investigation was overseen by the most senior prosecutors in the office.  After all the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Harden were determined, they were analyzed following the laws of the Commonwealth and the conclusions were made by all the prosecutors involved.

Investigators identified four percipient witnesses to Mr. Harden’s death and each of them were interviewed. During the investigation, investigators interviewed approximately 20 civilian and law enforcement witnesses.

The following sections contain summaries of the applicable laws, facts discovered through the investigation, legal analysis, and conclusions.



When a police officer has probable cause to believe an individual has committed a felony crime of violence and/or a domestic violence crime, it is preferred that the police officer arrest the perpetrator.[4] An Assault and Battery by Means of a Dangerous Weapon is a felony crime of violence where arrest is preferred.[5] [6] A dangerous weapon can be something obviously dangerous like a gun or a knife.  It can also be an item that has everyday uses other than for violent acts if it is used by a perpetrator in a dangerous fashion. For example, a brick is ordinarily used as a building material, but it becomes a dangerous weapon if it is used to strike a person.[7]

An assault and battery on a family or household member is a domestic violence crime where arrest is preferred.[8] [9]


The laws of the Commonwealth allow a person to act in self-defense or defense of another.[10] Self-defense and defense of another, if warranted by the circumstances and carried out properly, constitute a complete defense.[11]  The level of force used by a person acting in self-defense or defense of another must be commensurate to the level of the threat.  Deadly force may be used to combat deadly force.  However, deadly force may not be used to combat non-deadly force.   Our laws, define deadly force as force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm.  Non-deadly force is defined as force less than deadly force.[12]


Generally, the law does not allow admission of prior acts of violence in a prosecution. However, when there is an issue of self-defense or defense of another, evidence of prior violent acts becomes relevant to the issue of first aggressor when the prior acts of violence show a propensity for initiating violence.[13]   In Massachusetts prior acts of violence committed by the deceased will be admitted at trial as evidence showing who was the first aggressor in an incident.  This evidence is admissible whether or not the person who resorts to self-defense was aware of the history at the time of the incident.