James Barker was just looking to make a few bucks last year as he went door to door in his community asking neighbors if he could remove snow and ice from their walkways. This lead someone in his neighborhood to call the police. Something that’s even more dangerous than suspicious persons, IMO.
That’s when Matthew Taylor, a Salt Lake Police employee, responded to the call and found Barker on the porch of a residence. Taylor started to investigate the suspicious persons call by asking for Barker’s name. When he refused Taylor insisted stating that he was investigating a crime and that refusing to ID would result in a arrest. This upset Barker who then started yelling and swinging his shovel at Taylor.
According to Taylor a fight ensued and since Barker was wearing a winter jacket a taser was not an option. So, Taylor withdrew his police issued firearm and shot Barker three times at point blank range in the stomach. He died at the scene.
Since the police claim that Taylor’s body camera was disabled during the scuffle the shooting was quickly justified as a legal use of deadly force. Yet, another video has surfaced that seems to show Taylor shooting Barker while subdued, in handcuffs and no longer fighting with the officer as he claimed.
According to Fox 13 out of Salt Lake City:
“[Barker] is laying on the ground, he’s already on the ground incapacitated,” Lawrence said, adding that, as the officer was crouched over the incapacitated Barker, they believe shots were fired.
“You hear the sounds of the shots, the three gun shots,” he said. “…that shot seems muffled, the second shot, the third shot: there’s three shots fired. Everyone testified there’s three shots fired.”
See the video above for the new footage, and click here for the previously released footage from the officer’s body camera.
Lawrence and other supporters met with Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill Friday afternoon to discuss the new footage and the possibility of re-opening the case. The meeting comes on the one-year anniversary of the fatal encounter.
“We’re going to go back and review our materials that we have and see the context and whether that changes or alters our conclusion,” Gill told FOX 13 News after he reviewed the footage presented by Lawrence Friday.
Gill also said the officer, who was previously cleared of wrongdoing in the incident, has now been placed on leave.
There are a number of things to point out here aside from the standard lying on reports and the police mentality toward the use of deadly force.
Barker was a combative subject and if the story panned out the way Taylor said then deadly force would have been justified. Yet, it seems that Taylor’s training allowed him to successfully arrest Barker without using deadly force. Of course we don’t have any video proof because the body camera was disabled.
In the gap between the body cam, which last frame showed a shovel about to strike the officer, and the neighbors cell phone video it seems that the officer was able to handcuff Barker while positioning himself on top of the subject.
This is when you hear three muffled pops in the cell phone video. A former police officer has stated that the pops are most certainly gunshots that are muffled from being fired at pointblank range (pressed into Barker) and that the video was taken from inside the house next door. This clearly contradicts the statements made by Taylor and would mean that his use of force was not justified. Unless of course you think police should be shooting handcuffed suspects at point blank range.
Taylor is back on leave while the district attorney revisits the case with the new video evidence. Yet, while the state decides if it should punish one of their own, take a moment to learn something from this tragedy.
First, never call the police about a suspicious person that isn’t CLEARLY doing something illegal. Maybe approach them, ask them what they’re doing and if you can provide assistance. If you feel that calling the police is required after that, then so be it. Yet, I would refrain from calling the police in any situation that doesn’t involved a clear threat of violence (and even then you’re probably better off dealing with it yourself). When you do call the cops you’re putting everyone they may have contact with at risk. Too many times we’ve blogged about police who’ve mistaken suspects, overreacted to minor situations and ended up using lethal force in non violent situations.
Second, always film the police. Whether they are at your neighbor’s house, down the road or at your own front door. We know that police can lie to you, we know that they lie on their report, we know that they turn off their body cams (which is being questioned in this very case too) and we know they will kill for little to no reason. Do you really want to risk one of these disasters happening to your or in your community?
NEWS REPORT ON SHOOTING OF BARKER: