D.A. agrees to 're-examine' police shooting death in light of new video
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Exactly one year after James Dudley Barker was shot and killed by a Salt Lake police officer in the front yard of an Avenues home, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill promised Friday to "re-examine" the case in light of a new video that purports to show some of the incident.
The video, released Friday by police reform activist and former Davis County Sheriff William "Dub" Lawrence, appears to show officer Matthew Taylor standing with Barker's still body between his feet. He and others believe it shows him crouched down and shooting Barker three times at close range.
Lawrence showed the video and an "enhanced" version of it to reporters at the office of former Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson. He pointed out aspects of both versions of the clip that he believes contradict the original district attorney report in February that said Taylor was legally justified in shooting and killing Barker, who hit the officer with a snow shovel.
"These determinations are often made without all the evidence," Lawrence said.
The shaky video, which Lawrence says was taken from two houses away, begins immediately with a short series of sounds that are hard to identify in both the original and enhanced versions as Taylor can be seen standing over Barker. Lawrence alleges that those sounds are three gunshots.
"From my experience, the thousands of times I've heard gunshots it sounds to me very clearly to be gunshots. I hope I'm wrong," he said.
Barker, who is apparently laying on the ground, doesn't appear to move during the video. Multiple vehicles pass through the intersection and a siren can also be heard during the clip.
Gill and other prosecutors watched the video for the first time Friday.
"We’re going to take that material that was presented to us and just go back and re-examine where this information fits into the materials that we were provided and see if that changes or alters what our original conclusion was," Gill said.
He said it would be "absolutely improper" to speculate on the merits of the video outside of the context of his office's investigation.
"I'll tell you one thing, regardless of what the conclusion calls for, our office is not afraid to call it like we see it," he said.
Lawrence claims a visible gesture in the video that Taylor makes with his hand, just seconds before he flags down a police car, was meant to wave away a witness in a southbound vehicle passing through the intersection.
Lawrence was given the video in November by San Francisco-based civil rights attorney Robert Rubin, who claims the report on the shooting death was "woefully incomplete."
“If the evidence is revealed to be as we believe it to (be), that these were shots, police officers have to be held to the same level of accountability," Rubin told the Deseret News. "And if this is what we think it is, this is cold-blooded murder.”
Rubin says the video shows Barker face down on the ground, with his hands apparently handcuffed behind him.
“The video speaks for itself,” Rubin said. “It appears to show the officer crouching over him and shooting him at point-blank range, which is at odds with the police report.”
Rubin received the video from a friend of the witness who filmed it, according to Lawrence. Rubin passed the clip on to Lawrence, but the quality was too poor to make use of it, the former sheriff said, so he contacted the person who made the clip and eventually retrieved it directly from their phone.
Rubin said the video wasn't made public until Friday partly because it took months to enhance the cellphone video. He said he first contacted Gill in November about meeting, but said Gill was unavailable until Friday.
A Salt Lake police spokesman declined to comment about the video Friday, but the president of the department's police union issued a statement supporting Taylor.
"The Salt Lake City Police Association stands by officer Taylor 100 percent and we are confident in the initial investigation of the James Barker incident," Michael Millard said. "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."
Richard Grow, who lives in the neighborhood, said he witnessed the shooting while passing through the intersection. Grow told the Deseret News Friday that the newly released video does not show when Taylor shot Barker.
"What that (video) basically shows is the police officer had looked the guy over, handcuffed him and stood up," he said. "That’s what you’re seeing there."
Grow said he believes Taylor was justified in shooting Barker, but believes officers weren't truthful with district attorney investigators.
"I think what the police officer did he had to do out of necessity," Grow said. "But what’s stunning to me is that police aren’t telling the truth about what happened."
Taylor told investigators he was knocked to the ground by the shovel and said Barker continued hitting him with it. He said Barker grabbed his holster or gun at least twice before he was eventually able to push Barker back, grab his gun and fire from a few feet away.
Grow, however, said Barker did not swing at Taylor multiple times and he saw the officer shoot Barker three times at point blank range, rather than from a few feet away.
After the two men jumped off the porch and continued to struggle, Grow said, the snow shovel was not involved.
He said he immediately asked Taylor if he needed any help, but said the officer ordered him to leave. "I don't think the police officer wanted any witnesses," Grow said. "I think he hoped that I didn't see everything that happened."
Heidi Keilbaugh, who was Barker's girlfriend of five years at the time of the shooting, spoke at a small rally held in his honor Friday at the site of the killing. She told the two dozen or so supporters who had gathered that the shooting was clearly not justified and said she looked forward to the public seeing the newly released video.
Contributing: McKenzie Romero, Ashley Kewish
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