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New video: A different story of James Barker’s death at the hands of police?

First Published      Last Updated Apr 07 2016 10:36 pm


Friends hope to reopen the investigation into the fatal January 2015 police shooting in Salt Lake City’s Avenues.

A newly discovered video purportedly shows James Dudley Barker facedown with his hands behind him near the intersection of I Street and Second Avenue when a Salt Lake City police officer shoots him three times in the back.

Officer Matthew Taylor was exonerated in the shooting after his body camera caught Barker swinging a snow shovel at the lawman. The body cam then stopped working. Police said a scuffle had ensued and Taylor, injured and fearing for his life, shot Barker.

But a cellphone camera video shot by a neighbor from a window may tell a different story.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office received a copy of the video Friday. It plans to examine it and how it compares with the other evidence.



"Our job and our commitment has always been [to be] as thorough and open and transparent as we can, so we are going to do our due diligence to re-examine what we have," Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said.

The Salt Lake Police Association, in a statement, said it stands by Taylor and expressed its confidence in the initial investigation.

"We have full confidence the supplemental investigation will confirm the original justified ruling. It is our belief Officer Taylor did not shoot James Barker while he was handcuffed," the statement reads. "We appreciate any evidence anyone can bring forward, however, to speculate regarding a conspiracy theory is both irresponsible and unproductive."

William J. "Dub" Lawrence, a former Davis County sheriff who has been an activist for police reform, showed the video to The Tribune on Friday, the one-year anniversary of Barker's death.

The video has been enhanced to provide a shaper image of the encounter that day, when Barker was seen going around the Avenues neighborhood with a snow shovel, apparently looking for work. A caller had phoned authorities, saying there was a suspicious man in the neighborhood.

Frame by frame, Lawrence described the scene depicted on the video near the sidewalk on 2nd Avenue. The eave of an adjoining house blocks the porch from view so that the scuffle and the events before the shooting cannot be seen. But each enhanced frame, Lawrence said, shows Barker facedown near the sidewalk. The officer kneels down over him, and three sounds ­­— allegedly gunshots — are heard. The officer then stands up and walks a short distance away.

At one point toward the end of the video, a civilian walks up, but the man, an apparent witness, is turned away by police.

San Francisco-based attorney Robert Rubin has been working on the case for almost a year at the request of Barker's friends. He, too, said it appears that the officer shot Barker three times in the back while handcuffed.

"At the very least, we want the district attorney to reopen the case," he said Friday.

Rubin would not comment on any other legal action.

It should be noted, however, that under state law, the one-year period during which a person can file a claim against a police officer to pursue legal redress ended Thursday. That time limit would not apply to federal court or to a criminal matter.

A year ago, a Salt Lake City police spokesman said the officer was taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries suffered ­— a fractured arm and foot — during the encounter.

Richard Grow, an Avenues resident, told The Tribune a year ago that he witnessed the final moments of the struggle between the officer and Barker.

Grow, 67, was driving south on I Street near 2nd Avenue when he saw the two men leap off a front porch, one after the other. Grow said he was not sure if the officer was the first one off the porch or not.

He said he initially thought they were two roommates fighting, but he soon realized that one was a policeman.

By the time Grow pulled up, stopping his car about 40 feet from the fight, he said the two men were wrestling on the ground in front of the house.

"They wrestled on the ground for 10 to 15 seconds," Grow said. Then he saw the officer "reach around his side and pull out his gun and hold it up to the guy's chest and, bam, bam, bam. ... Point blank against this man's chest."

Grow got out and asked the officer whether he needed any help.

"He just said 'get out of here,' " Grow said.

He obeyed, but he filled out a statement at police headquarters a few hours later.

Barker's girlfriend, Heidi Keilbaugh, said Friday afternoon that she had not watched the video, but someone described it "play by play" to her over the phone.

She said she hopes the video raises "awareness as to what really happened and what was covered up."

In an op-ed column published in Thursday's Tribune, former Salt Lake City Council member Deeda Seed called for more transparency and accountability from Salt Lake City police. She also said that police officers need better training to avoid such deaths.

Salt Lake City police deferred comment to the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office.

csmart@sltrib.com

Michael McFall contributed to this report

 

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