17-year-old charged; 14-year-old arrested in death of St. Joe Co. corrections officer

Rhema Harris
Rhema Harris(St. Joseph County Police Department)
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 12:52 PM EDT
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MISHAWAKA, Ind. (WNDU) - A 17-year-old has been charged with murder and a 14-year-old has been arrested for their roles in the shooting death of a corrections officer with the St. Joseph County Police Department in Mishawaka back in June.

Rhema Harris, 28, was shot and killed just after 6 p.m. on June 26 in the 1900 block of Milburn Boulevard. Officers told 16 News Now at the time it was a drive-by shooting, with shots being fired at the back of the house from an alleyway. At least five people, including children, were at the house when the shooting happened.

The St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office says Braxton Bird, 17, of South Bend, was charged with murder for his role in the shooting death of Rhema Harris, 28, on July 27.

Bird had previously been detained in an unrelated matter and is currently being held by the Indiana Department of Corrections on a juvenile sentence that is to run into 2023. The St. Joseph County Police Department’s Warrants Division will bring Bird to the St. Joseph County Jail to answer for these charges at a later date.

The St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office has reviewed the investigation and has filed criminal charges against Mr. Bird for:

  • Count I: Murder
  • Count II: Attempted Murder, a level 1 felony
  • Count III: Criminal Recklessness, a level 5 felony

The sentencing range for murder is 45 to 65 years. The sentencing range for a level 1 felony is 20 to 40 years. The sentencing range for a level 5 felony is one to six years.

Meanwhile, a 14-year-old was arrested this past Thursday for his role in the drive-by shooting death of Harris. A detention hearing was conducted Tuesday morning in which the St. Joseph County Probate Court made the initial determination to detain the 14-year-old, who could eventually be charged as an adult.

According to a probable cause affidavit, two witnesses told detectives that the two teens who shot at the home were brothers. Those same documents say Bird and his younger brother began shooting at the back of a home while riding inside a Chevy Impala with three other juveniles.

The bullets, which investigators say were reportedly meant for a teenage girl that Bird had ongoing issues with since he was arrested for burglary back in February. Instead, one of those bullets struck and killed Harris.

Three witnesses inside the Chevy Impala confirmed Bird and his brother were the ones firing the guns. Police were also able to put Bird at the scene of the crime thanks to a GPS monitor tether he was ordered to wear for his previous burglary charge.

A hearing has not yet been set for Bird, but his brother is expected in juvenile court this upcoming Monday.

St. Joseph County Sheriff William Redman will be asking the court to order the suspects charged to be held in a facility other than the St. Joseph County Jail. The jail has contacted the Indiana Department of Corrections for assistance on finding an alternate facility to house the two teens.

Meanwhile, Redman issued the following statement regarding Tuesday’s announcement of charges in the murder of Harris.

Read the full probable cause affidavit below:

(St. Joseph County Prosecutor's Office)
(St. Joseph County Prosecutor's Office)
(St. Joseph County Prosecutor's Office)
(St. Joseph County Prosecutor's Office)
(St. Joseph County Prosecutor's Office)

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