Public Safety

Police: James Phillips shot Leland Harris, 34, in 2017

19-year-old Cedar Rapids man faces murder charge

Leland Harris
Leland Harris
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Already charged with sexual abuse, a Cedar Rapids man was arrested Wednesday in connection with the 2017 fatal shooting of a man in southwest Cedar Rapids.

James Stephan Phillips, who was 17 at the time of the killing, will be charged formally Thursday in Linn County District Court with first-degree murder, first-degree theft, conspiracy to commit a forcible felony and going armed with intent.

He is accused of killing Leland Joseph Harris, 34.

Harris was found at 7:27 a.m. Nov. 22, 2017, in an alley in the 500 block of 10th Street SW, according to police. The state medical examiner determined Harris died from gunshot wounds. Police said Harris likely died late Nov. 21, 2017.

According to an obituary, Harris was a graduate of Xavier High School. He loved “dancing, music, art and people,” the obituary stated.

“There is no words to express the loss we feel for our son, brother, father, grandson, nephew and friend,” according to the obituary. “Leland, we love you and miss you today, tomorrow and forever.”

The investigation into Harris’ fatal shooting has been ongoing and police said Phillips could face additional charges.

More details of the shooting are expected to be included in a criminal complaint, which will be released after Phillips’ initial appearance.

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Phillips already was in the Linn County Jail on a third-degree sexual abuse charge and a previous conviction of assault, according to court documents. He was charged last November for sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl on June 24, 2018. The teen told a forensic interviewer at St. Luke’s Child Protection Center that the abuse started when she was 13, according to a criminal complaint.

Investigators also recovered text messages exchanged between Phillips and victim, which corroborated her account of the abuse, the complaint shows.

Phillips’ trial on that charge is set for May 6.

Phillips pleaded guilty in February to assault causing bodily injury, a serious misdemeanor, according to court documents. He punched Edward Finley multiple times, causing swelling and bleeding to Finley’s face. He was sentenced to eight days in jail.

His record also shows convictions for possession of marijuana, assault, theft and interference with official acts.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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