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17-year-old charged; 14-year-old arrested in June shooting death of St. Joseph County Jail officer

St. Joseph County Police Department
Rhema Harris

A 17-year-old has been charged and a 14-year-old arrested in connection with a June drive-by shooting in Mishawaka that killed St. Joseph County Jail officer Rhema Harris.

Police were called to a house on Milburn Boulevard on June 26 and found Harris inside with a gunshot wound to her chest. She was transported to the hospital, but later died of her injuries.

At the time of the shooting, she had worked as a corrections officer at the jail for just under one year but was also undergoing the testing process to become an officer with the county police department.

According to court documents, 17-year-old Braxton Bird has been charged with murder, attempted murder and criminal recklessness in Harris’s death.

A juvenile witness who was in the home when the shooting took place told investigators that Bird did it. She said Bird was upset with her because he had been arrested for burglarizing her stepfather's house and blamed her for getting him in trouble.

Bird also allegedly sent the witness threatening messages on social media saying he wanted to fight her before the shooting and said that he was not trying to come to her “grannies” house when she refused to meet.

Other witnesses say a silver Chevrolet Impala carrying five people drove past the house twice before opening fire. Police say they interviewed the car’s other occupants, who say that Bird shot at the house with a rifle and his 14-year-old brother did so with a handgun.

Bird had already been arrested for an unrelated matter and is currently being held by the Indiana Department of Corrections. He will be transferred to the St. Joseph County Jail at a later date. The 14-year-old’s name has not been released.

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Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.