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Family of man killed by SWAT team angry at police

LINDON — Michael Batchelor was a depressed man who needed help, not a violent criminal who deserved to be surrounded and eventually shot by a SWAT team, emotional family members said Tuesday.

Batchelor was shot in his Santaquin home by SWAT officers Sunday after a nearly two-hour standoff with police that began when family members heard a gunshot inside the home and called 911.

But it should have never come to lethal force, the family said.

"Our country negotiates with terrorists, but they couldn't negotiate with my brother," said sister Shannon Barrowman through her tears. "He was a cry for help and he didn't get it."

The family gathered Tuesday to share "our side of the story," and talk about the man they knew and loved, and now mourn.

"He was a father, a husband and a friend," Barrowman said. "He would lend you anything at a moment's notice. He loved camping. He was a good man."

Family members said Batchelor, 32, was worried about finances and marital problems and was feeling alone — all concerns he shared with another sister Sunday night.

"But at no point did she think he was at a point of no return or she would never have let him leave," Barrowman said.

Later that Sunday, Batchelor got into an argument with his wife, Jessica, and she left with the couple's three kids. Soon, Batchelor sent out text messages to his family that said "I love you, goodbye," Barrowman said.

The family quickly headed over to his house, where they found the doors locked. After hearing a gunshot inside, they called 911 and soon found themselves pushed away from the scene by the police.

"We asked to talk with him and over and over they told us, 'No. Stay back,' " Barrowman said.

Utah County Metro SWAT Sgt. Shaun Bufton said it is common policy to keep family members away from a potentially dangerous situation, to avoid more people getting hurt.

The family questions why they couldn't have been permitted to talk with Batchelor through a bullhorn. Even a robot intending to deliver a phone to the distraught man stopped at the front door and never got inside, family said.

Bufton said the situation escalated too quickly and that officers saw Batchelor come out of a back bedroom with his gun raised before the robot could get inside to continue negotiations.

Once officers saw the weapon pointed at them, two SWAT officers fired.

Barrowman said they heard a gun shot — but not a shotgun round from Batchelor — and went "ballistic."

"They shot him in his own home right between the eyes," Barrowman said. "It was a shoot to kill, not to stop an injured man who needed help."

Batchelor's family is angry with the way SWAT officers pushed them around and frustrated with the short time spent in negotiations.

Bufton said officers tried, and he called the entire situation unfortunate.

"We don't want to cause people harm," he said. "But when you mix alcohol and anger and depression and whatever the problem was, people don't think rationally."

Bufton said his men tried to negotiate with Batchelor from the minute they arrived on scene, even though the official negotiation team didn't arrive until later. And Bufton said he would have used a Taser or rubber bullets had Batchelor not pointed his gun at officers.

"When someone's pointing a shotgun at you, you don't use anything but lethal force," he said.

But that doesn't resonate with the family.

"This is my son, he was a human being," said mother Gloria Nicholes, as she held up a framed picture of Batchelor. "He had some problems, but all he needed was some help and no one would help him."

E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com