Last Saturday, a representative from the Make-A-Wish Foundation met with the family of a seriously ill child at the Memphis International Airport in order to provide a $1,500 gift card to pay for a trip. The representative was carrying a bag which contained the gift card and five T-shirts promoting St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
WREG-TV is reporting that, upon arriving at the airport, the Make-A-Wish volunteer and family were ambushed by off-duty Memphis police officer Ronald Harris, who, after following the volunteer to the airport, attempted to grab the gift bag, headbutted the sick child’s father, and dashed through the airport in an effort to try and escape. Officer Harris was apprehended by airport police after a struggle in which he allegedly reached for another officer’s gun. Footage from the incident, which was caught on tape by airport security cameras, can be seen in the above video coverage which aired on WHBQ-TV.
Ronald Harris is a 12-year veteran of the Memphis Police Department who had recently been put on mental health leave after allegedly threatening to kill his wife. After the incident at the airport, he has been charged with aggravated assault, robbery, evading arrest, and resisting arrest. His bond has been set at $25,000, and he has been suspended with pay from his job as a police officer.
The Make-A-Wish gift bag was recovered, and the family receiving it was able to pay for their trip and arrived safely. The recipient’s father, who was head-butted by Officer Harris while struggling over the gift bag, opted not to seek medical treatment so that he could make the flight with his family. Miranda Harbor, a representative with the Make-A-Wish foundation, told WREG-TV, “It is certainly a shocking and devastating thing that happened, but our primary focus is that this is not the overarching memory for this Wish family.” The Make-A-Wish foundation has indicated that it is considering adjustments to its policies to further ensure the safety of volunteers and families.
Police officers recovered stolen mail from Ronald Harris’ automobile. According to Harris’ wife, his doctor recently indicated that he is suffering from mental health issues that could pose a danger to others. At the time of the incident, he was already under investigation by the Memphis Police Department for misconducts ranging from failing to respond to radio calls, sleeping on duty, crashing his police cruiser, and abusing attendance policies.
Memphis Police Department Director Toney Armstrong said, in a statement about the shocking attack, “It is certainly disheartening and I am deeply saddened that an organization as wonderful as Make-A-Wish was victimized by someone sworn to protect, especially a member of the Memphis Police Department. Thankfully, no one sustained serious injuries. This officer is now facing serious charges for his criminal behavior. The Airport Police is to be commended for their quick response and professionalism.” Officer Harris will face charges in court on June 16th.