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Group gathers in memory of man killed after striking police officer

SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 200 people gathered outside the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building Saturday afternoon in memory of James Dudley Barker, who was shot and killed by a police officer after he attacked and injured the officer with a shovel.

The group Utah Against Police Brutality called for the protest to answer questions about officer training as it relates to restraint and de-escalation and ask for an external investigation of Thursday's shooting. Many also spoke of their relationship and memories of Barker.

"I cannot express how much love he had to give," Heidi Keilbaugh said of the man she said was her boyfriend. "And unfortunately the world has seen a different piece of information."

Friday evening police released body-cam footage of the encounter between Barker and the officer, who responded to 3rd Avenue and I Street after a concerned neighbor called police concerned about the actions of Barker.

Keilbaugh said the footage is hard to watch.

"I saw the fear in James' eyes in that video. I saw it," she told the crowd gathered Saturday.

"I cannot honestly say that that officer tried," Keilbaugh said. "I can say that what I saw was a power struggle. It was between two men."

Instead, Keilbaugh said she wished she had seen a conversation.

The 90-second video clip does show a conversation between the responding officer, who police have not identified, and Barker. The officer tries to ascertain what Barker is doing in the neighborhood. Barker says he's there to do snow removal, yet there is little snow in the neighborhood and a concerned caller questioned why he was going door to door. Barker gets increasingly agitated and at one point begins screaming at the officer.

Keilbaugh said she has never seen Barker hit anyone.

"He had the hands of a surgeon. He was a guitarist. He touched gently," she said to the crowd gathered Saturday.

The video clip shows Barker striking the officer with a snow shovel, sending him to the ground, disabling the body camera and injuring the officer, who suffered fractured bones in an arm and in a foot. The officer then fires his gun, killing Barker, the fatal moment not caught on the now broken camera, police said.

Ian Adams, spokesman for the Utah Fraternal Order of Police and a West Jordan police officer, said the video is 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," Adams said. "That officer did nothing to provoke such an aggravated assault."

Summer Osborn said she met Barker at Brigham Young University nearly 20 years ago, and said he was a peacemaker who believed everyone should have a happy, beautiful life.

After watching the body-cam footage, Osborn said there was an opportunity to "step back."

"It was the cop who was the professional there that day," she said. "It was the cop who was the approacher that day. It was the cop who called back up, but then didn't back up."

Osborn said there should be less training for officers on how to kill, and more training on understanding people.

"(Jame's) death was a senseless tragedy," Osborn said. "Senseless because it could have been avoided."

Danny Warner said he wished his friend of 16 years had acted differently. He said both sides should focus on de-escalation.

"I wish (James) would have answered (the officer with) his name. But I wish the cop would have stepped back," he said. "A friend, a son is dead. Err on the side of caution. Step back and wait."

Email: ebench@deseretnews.com