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Report Clears Police

Police decide not to present video evidence in the investigation of Lewis Barber’s death.

A recently concluded internal police investigation into the April 27 shooting death of Lewis Barber found that the two officers involved in the shooting acted properly. The findings of the investigation were presented to the Human Rights Commission in a four-hour hearing on Tuesday, which was followed by questions from the public.

Although the commission voted to accept the findings, Commissioner Rodney Salinas dissented — saying that the police should have presented their video recording as evidence.

"It was obviously a marketing presentation by the police," said Tom Bijack, a friend of Barber who launched a Web site to explore the events leading to the shooting. "There are still a number of questions that need to be answered."

Bijack and others want to see the video tape and listen to the audio recordings of the shooting. Two police officers shot Barber when he emerged from his house carrying a weapon after a 20-hour standoff in Del Ray. The day before, Barber had kidnapped his son at gunpoint from the Rock-It Grill on King Street.

"Lou did an awful thing," Bijack said. "But I’m not satisfied that they had a good plan."

IN JUNE, Commonwealth Attorney Randy Sengel released a 10-page report outlining the incident commander’s plan, giving details about how officers wanted to lure Barber into the open and stun him with a non-lethal weapon — a plan that went wrong and left Barber dead.

"Barber had already placed the child at great risk by his own conduct, which had prompted the armed standoff with police," Sengel wrote in the June report. "To have allowed Barber to retreat into his home while wounded, intoxicated, probably suicidal and certainly able to re-arm himself, and permit him to still be in control of his son whom he feared losing, would have been reckless by any standard."

After examining the videotape of the incident and interviewing officers on the scene, Sengel determined that Barber never aimed a gun at police officers. Nevertheless, Sengel concluded, officers felt "grave danger of being shot."

"The use of deadly force by any police officer is always traumatic and it is used only as a last resort to protect life," said Police Chief Charles Samarra in a written statement.

Samara’s internal investigation found that Barber's actions placed the officers in the position of using deadly force. The findings also concluded that the shooting resulted in the safe rescue of Barber's son.

For Bijack, the internal investigation left too many questions unanswered. "They presented a convincing case, but it was presented by the holders of the data," Bijack said. "I’d like for the family to have the opportunity to see the video."