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Sim Gill: James Barker Shooting Still Justified

Salt Lake City Police Department
Image taken from a Salt Lake City Police Department body camera worn by Officer Matthew Taylor. James Barker claimed he was looking to shovel snow for money when a neighbor reported him for suspicious behavior.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill says a newly released cell phone video of the January 2015 shooting death of James Barker by a Salt Lake City police officer, does not change the outcome of his original ruling:  that the shooting was justified.

The video, recorded by a witness in a nearby house shows 42-year-old Barker, lying on the ground, already subdued; Officer Matthew Taylor kneeling over him.  Then the sound of what some described as three gun shots can be heard. Gill saw the video for the first time on Friday, when it was released to the public.

“Whenever such evidence is brought forward, we have an ethical and a legal and moral obligation to do our due diligence, and leave no stone unturned,” Gill says.

Gill says after examining the video over the weekend, his office determined Taylor is putting handcuffs on Barker after Barker had been shot. Gill says he never determined the source of the sounds on the tape.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown says detectives didn’t collect the video as evidence at the time of the shooting more than a year ago.

“Hindsight is 20/20,” Brown says. “As we conduct investigations into the future, every bit of information, everything is important and we will collect it.”

Sim Gill says a new policy went into effect at the start of this year stating that police agencies will not investigate their own officer-involved shootings. Rather those incidents will be investigated by a task force of officers from several agencies.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski told reporters there is no question Barker’s death was a tragedy, but she added the negative portrayal of Officer Taylor after the release of the tape without a thorough review of the evidence, unnecessarily upset the community. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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