DA’s Office clears officer in fatal Avenues shooting

Posted at 4:06 PM, Feb 23, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY — James Barker was shot and killed by a Salt Lake City police officer on Jan. 8. Six weeks later, the Salt Lake County District Attorney ruled the shooting was justified.

The district attorney said he came to this ruling based on the facts presented to him, which was Officer Matthew Taylor’s interview, witness statements and the physical evidence.

Read full letter and statement about the decision here: Officer-involved shooting justified

It was the afternoon of Jan. 8 when Taylor responded to calls of a suspicious man in the Avenues near 2nd Avenue and I street.

Findings show Taylor’s interaction with Barker on a front porch quickly escalated and turned deadly. Body camera video show’s Barker taking a “batter’s stance” with a snow shovel.


DA Sim Gill said at that point, Taylor already started to get off the porch.

"He got hit, he went down, that the person who was the assailant then jumped on top, continued to assault with the shovel," Gill said.

Photos taken from the scene show the metal strip of the snow shovel completely broken off with bits and pieces of the shovel scattered in the yard.

Gill said Taylor did not try to use deadly force at first.

"At one time the officer tried to reach for his Taser to see if he could taze the person and realizing his clothing was there and also through the scuffle the Taser got kicked away from his hand," Gill said.

With several broken bones, cuts, bruises and his Taser out of reach, Taylor stated he knew he was in trouble.

"Usually in such altercations the person may assault an officer and run away -- that he continued to persistently attack and at one point as the struggle ensued, he felt that somebody tugging on his gun and of course that gave him greater concern," Gill told FOX 13.

Gill said that because Taylor was hit by the shovel, attempted to use his Taser, and felt Barker pull on his gun all contributed to the DA's ruling that the use of deadly force was legally justified.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank was not available for comment on the ruling.

We're told Taylor is still recovering from the injuries he sustained during the confrontation and has not been back to work yet.