It was just over a year ago when a Utah cop confronted a man going door to door, asking people to shovel their snow in exchange for a few dollars.
The man, James Barker, became annoyed at the officer, and told him to leave him alone, that he was only trying to do his job.
But Salt Lake City police officer Matthew Taylor insisted on knowing his name, telling Barker that he was responding to a complaint of a “suspicious” man walking the neighborhood.
Taylor’s body cam footage shows that Barker grew agitated and lifted the shovel as if to swing it at him.
But the video the cuts off – supposedly because Barker struck it with the shovel – and that was when Taylor shot him dead.
However, now a new video has surfaced that purportedly shows Taylor shooting a handcuffed Barker three times in the back while crouching over him.
The video was released by a former sheriff turned police reform activist; the man who founded Utah’s first SWAT program in 1975, only for them to kill his son-in-law in 2008.
William “Dub” Lawrence is one of several activists leading the charge for a new investigation into the Barker shooting.
And Salt Lake City District Attorney Sim Gill, who determined the shooting to be justified last February, assured the public on Friday that he would re-examine the evidence in context with the new video.
The low quality video, posted below, was recorded through a window from two houses down, and is partially obstructed by a rooftop, so these allegations are not immediately clear.
According to the Deseret News:
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.
The Salt Lake City Tribune notes 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.”
But perhaps the timing is purely coincidental that Gill’s calendar was booked until a day after this deadline.
But the Tribune also notes that the “time limit would not apply to federal court or to a criminal matter.”
The video begins with Taylor crouching over Barker. Three muffled popping sounds can be heard with the first sound barely audible.
“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,” Lawrence told the Deseret News.
Like many cops who kill, Taylor described a harrowing scene where he was in a fight for his life against a man who first knocked him down with the shovel, then pounced on him.
He said he pulled out his Taser but Barker knocked it away. He said that Barker kept grabbing for his gun.
He said he managed to push Barker off him, draw his gun and fire three times from several feet away. He said he ended up with a broken foot and fractured arm.
“I know if he gets my gun, he’s going to kill me,” Taylor said, noting that he was especially concerned that Barker hadn’t fled after knocking Taylor off the porch.
“I’ve had guys fight me, but they run away,” Taylor told investigators. “When I got knocked off, [Barker] had plenty of time to run away. He’s still coming … grabbing for my gun. His one goal was to try and kill me.”
Taylor said he pushed Barker off him and drew his gun, shooting Taylor three times from a “couple of feet away.”
But if those muffled sounds in the video turn out to be gunshots, then it would mean Taylor shot Barker from a couple of inches away.
The obvious question that is not answered in the district attorney’s report from last year when he cleared the cop of any wrongdoing is: where are the autopsy results or if even one was conducted?
That should tell us whether or not Barker was shot in the back or in the front.