DA’s Office stands by ‘justified’ ruling of Avenues shooting

Posted at 5:38 PM, Jan 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-13 00:39:20-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Despite new video released Friday, Salt Lake County district attorney says he stands by the original ruling of 'justified' in an officer-involved shooting in the Avenues last January.

District Attorney Sim Gill, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown and Mayor Jackie Biskupski spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon.

After seeing new video Friday, Gill decided to re-examine the 2015 incident where Salt Lake City Police Officer Matthew Taylor shot and killed James Barker after he attacked the officer with a snow shovel.

Gill worked through the weekend. On Monday his office still ruled the use of deadly force was justified.

Former Davis County Sheriff William Lawrence presented the new video Friday, claiming it shows Taylor shoot Barker three time in the back after he was handcuffed.

Gill re-examined the closed case. During Tuesday’s press conference, he explained why the video shows no criminal actions.

The video released Friday showed Taylor crouched over Barker. Lawrence claimed pops can be heard in the video.

Gill explained Taylor is reaching for a second pair of handcuffs, not his gun.

“I can clearly see the gun is holstered and when the pop pop pop we hear, I don't know what that is, but I can definitively say it's not a fire of a service revolver,” Gill said.

Gill also clarified there were shots under Barker's chin, on his left upper chest and on his left side – none in the back.

While Gill, along with the public, saw this video for the first time Friday, Salt Lake City officers were well aware of it last year.

“We saw the video that day one of our patrol officers who then called a detective on scene they reviewed it and elected at that time not to take the video or the phone it was on at that time,” said Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown.

Shante Johnson with the Fraternal Order of Police, said she was appalled to see the new video released and to hear Lawrence’s accusations against Taylor.

“It was really selfish and he really should be ashamed of himself,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she was grateful to the district attorney's office for quickly examining the video and justifying the officer's actions.

The Fraternal Order of Police says Lawrence's claims were unwarranted.

“He was a disgraced police officer. He only had six years of experience 40 years ago,” Johnson said of Lawrence. “So for him to come forward you can tell he was just trying to get a personal gain at the cost of all the people who were involved.”

Johnson’s husband, Derek Johnson, was killed in the line of duty in 2013.

Salt Lake City police say they will be reviewing their protocol to look for ways they can improve.

Biskupski said she stands by the DA and the police.

"In the coming months my office will work with Chief Brown to his ensure we are providing transparent and open process for dialog and information sharing,” she said.