Prosecutor: Utah police shooting justified
The evidence shows Officer Matthew Taylor did not shoot a man while he was handcuffed on the ground
By Lindsay Whitehurst
SALT LAKE CITY— A follow-up investigation involving a newly released video that raised questions about a fatal police shooting has again determined that the officer was justified in opening fire, the Salt Lake County district attorney said Tuesday.
The evidence shows Officer Matthew Taylor did not shoot a man while he was handcuffed on the ground, as the video released Friday by activists and lawyers for the man's family appeared to show, prosecutor Sim Gill said.
A different video and wounds suffered by James Dudley Barker indicate he was shot during a scuffle after hitting the officer with a snow shovel, Gill said.
"This officer deserved better and he has been exonerated," Gill said. "Under the law, that officer did what he was trained to do."
Taylor fired when Barker, 42, reached for the officer's gun, making Taylor justifiably afraid that Barker could get the weapon and shoot him, Gill said.
The latest video was taken through a window, and the view is partly obstructed. When enhanced, it appeared to show the officer standing above Taylor, and sharp banging sounds similar to gunshots are heard.
Another video played Tuesday at a news conference shows Taylor's gun remained holstered as he handcuffed Barker. Gill said that previously unreleased video was made by a person with a fuller view of the incident.
Barker was shot in his chin, upper left chest and left side, and the wounds were inconsistent with someone on the ground being shot from behind, the prosecutor said.
It's not clear what made the sound on the latest video, but "I can definitively say it's not fire from the service revolver," Gill said.
Police saw that video while they were investigating the fatal shooting, but decided it wasn't relevant since it showed the aftermath rather that the shooting itself, Salt Lake City interim police chief Mike Brown said.
Police tried to get it later but couldn't track down the man who made it, he said.
A change in state law means police shootings will now be investigated by an independent task force, not officers within their own department, Gill said.
Newly elected Mayor Jackie Biskupski said the investigation involving Taylor was "not a cover up or an investigation with a pre-determined outcome."
Rocky Anderson, a lawyer for members of Barker's family, declined to comment on Tuesday's announcement.
Fraternal order of police spokesman Ian Adams said clearing Taylor was the right move. "A good officer had his name dragged through the mud again for no reason," he said.
Barker was killed after someone called police to report a suspicious man offering to shovel snow in the Avenues neighborhood.
Taylor was wearing a body camera, but the video recording cut out when Barker hit him after a short conversation.
Taylor was later treated at a hospital for bruises and fractures to his arm and foot.
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