JOLIET, IL — During Samantha Harer’s last night alive, Feb. 12, 2018, off-duty Crest Hill police officer Phil Flores stayed on her living room couch, watching movies on Netflix, according to his testimony in a lawsuit deposition.
“Why didn’t you go to get in bed with Samantha if you were going to go to sleep?” plaintiff’s lawyer Jennifer Bonjean asked Flores during his December 2020 deposition.
“I had no intention of going to sleep. I was on the couch watching TV and I fell asleep,” Flores answered.
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Flores testified he fell asleep between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. He woke up around 3 a.m. or 3:30 a.m. “What did you do when you woke up?” Bonjean inquired.
“I was hungry, and I made something for myself to eat,” Flores testified. “A sandwich.”
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“When you went into her room like 3:30 in the morning, you didn’t wake her up at that point and say, hey?” Bonjean wondered.
“No, just checked on her, gave her a kiss on the forehead and I ate my sandwich,” Flores testified.
Flores Gives Harer Her Phone
During the next few hours, Flores was messaging a friend who is a police officer in Texas.
Around 7 a.m, Harer got out of bed and went to the bathroom, according to Flores.
“I said, ‘Hi there, sleepyhead,'” Flores testified. “She looked at me and went into the bathroom.”
“What did she do? Did she get back into the bed?”
“Yeah, she got back into the bed and covered herself up with the covers,” Flores testified. “She asked me what day it was. I said that it was Tuesday … I was like, Samantha, it’s Tuesday morning. Then I was walking to the doorway and she goes, well, that’s what happens when you take 12 Xanax and pointing to her pill bottle on her dresser.”
Flores testified he gave Harer back her phone after she went to the bathroom.
“Well, she had gone back into her room and when she asked for her phone it was on the floor,” he testified.
“And you gave it to her. You picked it up and handed it to her?”
“At no point did you have the phone in the living room, right?”
“After you handed the phone back to her from the floor, what did she say?”
“I know she was looking at it. And that’s when we started to have the conversation that led to her having taken the 12 Xanax,” Flores replied.
“She told you she took 12 Xanax?” Bonjean asked.
“Yes,” Flores replied.
“Do you know whether her toxicology report was consistent with someone who had taken 12 Xanax?”
“No, I don’t know that.”
“So after she told you she had taken 12 Xanax, that’s what happens when you take 12 Xanax, where did the conversation go from there?”
“She got extremely angry and told me that I needed to leave,” Flores testified.
“Did you ask her why she took 12 Xanax?”
“What did she say?”
“Never told me.”
Flores testified, “she kept telling me that I had to leave.”
“And you are clueless as to why she was telling you to leave?”
“Correct. That’s why I kept asking her what’s going on,” Flores responded.
Harer Begins Yelling At Flores
“Kind of like you were in Arizona you were clueless then about why she was upset with you and wanted to go home, right? Sounds like a number of occasions where she’s mad at you and you have no idea why. That was a recurrent theme, is that right?” Bonjean asked.
“I know she was mad at me. All I know is she was mad,” Flores testified.
“Most of the time people who get yelled at would deduce that they might be the subject or the object of someone’s anger. But you weren’t sure?”
“I asked her why she took 12 Xanax,” Flores testified.
“Did you raise your voice toward her?”
“And did her voice sound angry?”
“And were you ever able to figure out why she was angry on the morning of February 13, 2018?”
Bonjean wondered how long Flores and Harer were arguing in her bedroom.
“A minute?” she asked.
“I don’t know. It all happened so quick so I don’t know,” Flores responded.
“Well, how long was she standing up and arguing with you in the nude?”
“I don’t know the amount of time,” Flores replied.
Flores agreed with Bonjean’s time frame that the argument must have started around 7:40 a.m. or 7:45 a.m.
“You know what time you called 911, right?” the lawyer asked.
“Yes. 8:15 a.m. 8:17 a.m. Somewhere between there,” Flores answered.
“So we are talking about a period of, would it be fair to say, about 30 minutes that you argued with her?”
“No. Less than that,” Flores testified.
“So you argued with her less than 30 minutes, right?”
“And you still, as you sit here today, you don’t know why she abruptly started yelling at you and telling you to leave, is that right?”
“Did you suspect that she was angry that you were looking through her phone?”
Flores Denies Having Harer’s Phone Before Argument
“Did she say anything about her phone in anger toward you?”
“Not towards me, but as I was beginning to walk out she threw her phone,” Flores testified. “I don’t believe she was aiming at me.”
“What did she say when she threw the phone?”
“(Expletive) this phone,” Flores recalled.
Bonjean continued to ask Flores about whether Harer became angry at him for going through her phone. During the same deposition, Flores testified he went through his girlfriend’s Apple watch inside her Channahon apartment in September 2017, discovering that a married Plainfield police officer had been messaging her.
Three months later, that December, Flores used Harer’s pass code to go into her apartment when she was not home, discovering electronic messages that she was out that night with a Plainfield community service officer, according to his Dec. 20, 2020 sworn testimony and a Crest Hill police internal affairs probe.
“Had she expressed that she was upset with you prior to throwing the phone because you had her phone when she woke up?” Bonjean asked.
“I didn’t have her phone when she woke up. It was on the bed,” Flores testified.
“I know that’s what you said,” Bonjean agreed. “I’m asking, did she, when she woke up, express or communicate to you in any way that she was angry that you had accessed her phone or had been looking at her phone or in possession of her phone while she was sleeping?”
“She never mentioned anything about her phone as it relates to you, is that correct?”
“She was just standing there completely nude and yelling?”
“Was that common for her?”
“Yeah, we were both nude all the time when we were together in the house,” Flores testified.
“Even when you were fighting?” Bonjean followed up.
“We didn’t fight that much, but we were at home, we would take our clothes off and get on the couch,” Flores replied.
“Yes,” Flores answered.
“Can you remember any prior occasions where you were arguing with her where she was nude?”
“No, that’s why I didn’t understand what was going on.”
Flores Hears Bedroom Door Slam
After returning to the living room, Flores testified he went to put on his shoes, his hoodie, grab his keys and holster his gun.
“I said OK, I’m leaving,” Flores testified. “This is well after she threw the phone.”
What happened next, Bonjean asked.
“She slammed the door,” Flores testified. “I was getting ready to put my shoes on, I could hear the distinctive sound of a pistol being racked.”
“When you heard that distinctive sound of a gun racking, what did you do?”
“I ran straight back to the door and asked her what she was doing,” Flores answered. “I said, ‘Samantha, what are you doing?’ I went to open the door. I said, ‘Samantha, don’t lock the door.’ I tried to open it and I then needed my keys to open the door.”
Flores answered “yes” when asked if he told Harer to open the bedroom door.
“Did you bang on the door?” Bonjean inquired.
“No, I just said get the door open,” Flores remarked.
“Describe for me exactly how you opened the door?” Bonjean asked.
“Pulled the keys out of my pocket. Put the flat end into where the doorknob is to unlock it. Just twist it, unlock it and you open the door,” Flores responded.
“Was it a round doorknob or handle?”
“A round doorknob.”
“So you were able to essentially unlock the door?”
“So you unlock the door with your key and gained access to the room, right?”
“You didn’t kick down the door, right?”
“No,” Flores agreed.
“You didn’t use your hip to bust open the door, right?”
“You didn’t use your hands to like bust it open, right?”
“There was no damage to the door, right?”
“I don’t know,” Flores answered.
“You opened the door by simply unlocking it with the flat end of your key, correct?”
“You were not in the bedroom when the gunshot went off, correct?”
Flores: ‘I Quickly Kneeled By Her Feet’
Flores testified he found Harer, 23, in a seated position on her bedroom carpet with her back against one of the walls.
“I remember looking at Samantha, seeing the blood pour out the side of her head,” Flores testified. “I know at one point I opened up one of her eyes, looked into her eyes. I called 911 and I know I said my name.”
“Where were you standing when you first entered the room?”
“I quickly kneeled by her feet. I might have been between her ankle and her knee. Samantha was not a very tall person,” Flores explained.
“Were you on both knees or one knee?”
“Were you wearing any shoes?”
“No, I wasn’t. I didn’t get a chance to put them on. As I was putting them on, right before, just as she slammed the door shut I was putting on my shoes.”
“Her head was tilted to her left, your right, as you were facing her,” Bonjean noted. “There was blood pouring out of her head. And did you say anything to her?”
“I said her name. ‘Baby, look at me,'” Flores testified.
Flores was asked if he touched her.
“In and around her face,” he replied. “With an open palm. I want to say maybe her cheek. Just from the side of her face, cradled her head with my hand, and like opened up one of her eyelids to look into her eyes.”
“And you cradled it with your right hand?”
“Yes, I believe so,” Flores testified.
“And were you holding on to the cheek roughly or was it just a very gentle touch?”
“Just a gentle touch.”
“Why did you open her eye?”
“To see if there was any eye movement.”
“And did you see any eye movement?”
“No,” Flores answered.
“How long did you cradle her left cheek with your right hand as you were kneeling in front of her, or near her?”
“Just a few seconds and I called 911. I was still in the bedroom when I called 911.”
“Prior to getting up to go figure out the address of the apartment, did you touch any part of Samantha’s body other than her cheek as you described with your right hand?”
“Were you able to see the injury that she sustained?”
“Yes. Entry wound was to the right side of the head and the exit wound was to the left side.”
“Do you know whether you got Samantha’s blood on your right hand as you were cradling her left cheek?”
“I don’t know how I got the blood on my right hand,” Flores responded.
“Did you get blood on both hands or just one hand?”
“I believe I got it on both,” Flores testified.
“After you entered Samantha’s room at about 7:40 a.m. after she woke up, was there any point at which you made physical contact with her other than what you just described after she suffered the gunshot wound?”
“Did you ever re-enter the bedroom?”
“Yes, I did. When the dispatcher asked me if there was a way to perform CPR. I just went back in and kneeled on the ground. I remember looking at the body and just knowing I couldn’t revive her.”
“Why couldn’t you?”
“I don’t know.”
“You didn’t start any CPR, life savings measures on her, right?”
“Is there a reason why?”
“OK. Did you touch her body when you went back in the second time?”
“I don’t think so.”
Bonjean inquired whether Flores said anything to Harer after the shooting.
“I told her, you know, I remember asking, ‘Baby, are you still there? I’m there for you.’ Stuff like that.”
After that, Flores went and stood in the doorway of Harer’s apartment when he saw “three officers with weapons drawn pointed at me,” he testified. “I tried to tell them it was a cell phone … so I dropped the phone.”
“Did you recognize any of the police officers?”
“No,” Flores answered.
Several minutes later, a police car brought Flores to the Channahon police station where he was asked to give a statement to two detectives with the Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force: R.J. Austin of the Will County Sheriff’s Office and Carlos Matlock of the Joliet Police Department.
“Is that the one and only interview that you ever provided to either law enforcement or your chief regarding this incident?” Bonjean asked.
“So that occurred immediately, like February 13, 2018, right?”
“Correct,” Flores responded.
“Were you ever asked to give an interview in connection with the internal affairs investigation aspect of the case?”
“Yes,” Flores testified.
“OK. And did you sit for that interview?”
“No, I did not.””Why not?”
“Why did you resign?”
“Because I did not think that I could do the job effectively as a police officer anymore,” Flores told Bonjean. “I had a hard time dealing with the circumstances of Samantha and how she passed. I didn’t know how I could effectively go back and do my job properly. I was afraid that I would second guess a call that would result in my injury or injury to a fellow officer. I just decided that I couldn’t do the job anymore.”
“Did you decide you were going to retire before or after you were found not fit for duty?”
“It was right around leading up to the situation. We had been discussing that a lot,” Flores responded.
As the deposition was nearing its end, Bonjean announced, “I want to get the timing right. Samantha died, February 13, 2018, correct?”
“The statement to law enforcement on that day, were you asked to sit for another statement at any point?”
“So it is not that you declined to sit for any type of interview , second interview, am I right?”
“Correct,” Flores answered.
“And then there is a determination that her cause of death was suicide in early 2019, am I right about that?”
“Yes,” Flores agreed.
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