The Federal Bureau of Investigation has notified the Alexandria Police Department that no action will be taken regarding the April 27 shooting death of Lewis Barber.
Alexandria Police Chief Charles Samarra forwarded the case to the department following a hearing of the Human Rights Commission. Officials from the Justice Department declined to comment on specifics regarding their review.
"It is not unusual for the police department to ask for the Justice Department to review certain cases of deadly force, in particular those in which there is a compelling public interest," said Amy Bertsch, public information officer for the department. "In the past 10 years, two other cases were submitted to the Justice Department — a 1996 fatal shooting and a 2003 case where the suspect was struck on the head with a retractable baton. In both cases, no civil rights violations were found and no action was taken by the federal authorities."
The Justice Department’s action marks the end to official inquiries into the shooting, in which Barber was shot to death by two Alexandria officers after a 20-hour standoff initiated when Barber kidnapped his 9-year-old son at gunpoint. Prior to the kidnapping, Lewis Barber’s estranged wife, Robin, filed a protective order against him at the Alexandria Courthouse. She later moved out with their son.
Barber took the boy back to his Del Ray home on Wyatt Street. According to a report by Commonwealth Attorney Randy Sengel, the police devised a plan to lure Barber into the open and stun him with a non-lethal weapon — a plan that went wrong and left Barber dead.
Video footage of the incident — recorded by a robot on the scene — was reviewed by the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and the police department’s Internal Investigations Unit, but it was not shown to friends, family members or members of the Human Rights Commission.
"That leads me to wonder if the shooting of Mr. Barber was justified," said
Commissioner Rodney Salines, who voted against receiving the police report. "There was no explanation of why the video footage was missing from their presentation. If the video proved their case, they should have shown it to the Human Rights Commission."
Tom Bijack, a 15-year friend of Barber’s who maintains a web site to question the man’s death, was unconcerned with the Justice Department’s decision not to investigate the shooting.
"The fact that the Justice Department elected to not review Lew's case is a moot point as far as I'm concerned because it would not take the place of a truly independent review," Bijack said. "I want to get closure on this tragedy, but I also want an unbiased, conflict-of-interest-free look at the facts — and that hasn’t happened yet."