SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Dozens of protesters rallied Saturday afternoon outside the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building to denounce the fatal shooting of a man by police.
Speakers at the event, organized by the group Utah Against Police Brutality, said Thursday's shooting of James Barker, 42, by a Salt Lake City officer did not have to happen and called for an independent investigation into it.
"We believe that if the police take a life, they should not investigate themselves," the group said in a statement. "The shooting of James Barker is yet another case which should be handled by an impartial third-party with no departmental affiliations."
Police, in a statement, said the shooting would be investigated jointly by the department's homicide unit and Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office as well as by the department's internal affairs unit and a civilian review board.
The officer, whose name was not released, was placed on routine administrative leave. He was treated for fractures on his arm and foot at a local hospital.
Someone called police to report a suspicious man knocking on doors in the Avenues neighborhood and offering to shovel snow for money. Police say one officer responded and started talking to Barker, but at some point Barker began hitting the officer with a shovel.
Police on Friday released videotape from a camera worn by the officer, but said the shooting was not captured after the camera was damaged.
The video shows the talk between the two escalated as the officer pressed Barker to identify himself, saying residents thought he was acting suspiciously, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Barker refused and asked the officer to leave him alone because he is "trying to make a living." Barker is accused of swinging at him after the officer called for backup help.
Summer Osburn, a defense lawyer who met Barker 20 years ago while they were students at Brigham Young University, said she's frustrated by the number of cases involving police use of deadly force and was shocked by her friend's death.
"This is basically an execution," she told KUTV. "Full of life, full of love, that was James."
Ron Lee, a friend and neighbor of Barker, described him as a "kind" and "normal guy" who showed "absolutely no aggressiveness" during the years he had known him. He said he was surprised someone called police because he never knew Barker to be suspicious.
"I just can't understand how a man would be shot," he told the Deseret News.
But Ian Adams, a West Jordan police officer and spokesman for the Utah Fraternal Order of Police, said the video demonstrates a clear example of an officer doing his job.
"Officers have a job to do, and frankly the amount of victim-blaming on the officer is ridiculous and doesn't leave much air in the room for a rational discussion," he said. "That officer did nothing to provoke such an aggravated assault."