Joshua Anthony Barre, 29

Tulsa, Oklahoma
June 09, 2017

Agencies: Tulsa Police Department Oklahoma | Tulsa County Sheriff's Office Oklahoma

Cause of death: Shooting

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Tempers flared as an emotional crowd the police estimated at 300 people condemned the latest deadly police encounter in north Tulsa. Protesters chanted “f--- the police” from behind crime scene tape and shouted obscenities at investigators.

In response to the rapidly deteriorating situation, Tulsa police officers outfitted with protective gear and carrying riot shields swarmed the site of the shooting. Although no physical encounter with the crowd occurred, there was an instance where at least two rocks were hurled toward law enforcement officers, and a fight broke out between two men.

More than 50 police vehicles responded to the scene, and the Tulsa Police Department’s massive Mobile Command Center made a brief appearance.

“I never thought that in 2017, some s--- like this would be going down,” said 82-year-old north Tulsa native Bobby Eaton Sr., who was a leader in the city’s civil rights movement. “But here we are.”

The events

Police Department spokesman Officer Leland Ashley said deputies with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office’s Mental Health Unit were trying to serve a civil “pickup order” for a 29-year-old man at his home in the 300 block of West 50th Street North when he walked away from the area. A Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said a judge had issued the order for the man to undergo a mental-health evaluation or treatment.

Police released a statement Friday night expanding on the background of the case. Deputies had failed to take Barre into custody on the mental-health warrant on three occasions since June 1, when Barre reportedly had a hammer and threatened to kill officers from within his home. He was in the house alone, and “did not pose an immediate threat to the public,” police said in the statement. “Due to those circumstances, deputies left the house and chose to follow up on a later date.”

On Monday, “deputies were notified by a neighbor that Mr. Barre was up the previous night and scaring her children. Deputies were unable to locate Mr. Barre on that date,” the statement continues.

On Wednesday, deputies tried again to take Barre into custody at his residence, but Barre threatened to kill officers. The deputies left without forcing entry into the house or taking Barre into custody because, again, he didn’t “pose an immediate threat to the public,” according to the Police Department’s statement.

On Friday, police received four 911 calls between 9:50 a.m. and 9:56 a.m. reporting that a shirtless man with “two butcher knives” or a “machete” was walking down the street. Deputies had also been informed by a neighbor that Barre was “in the street armed with two large knives,” and they requested assistance from the Police Department.

Two deputies came upon Barre in the 300 block of West 50th Court North and ordered him to drop the knives, telling him that “they were there to get him help,” the police statement says. “Barre refused to drop the knives or stop, (and) he threatened to kill the deputies,” the statement continues.

Barre continued to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and walked south while deputies continued to follow him and tell him to drop the knives.

Barre walked toward a convenience store at 4449 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. “Fearing that he would enter (the) store and endanger … the public, commands were given to him to stop and not enter the store,” police said in the statement. As Barre opened the store’s door and stepped inside around 10 a.m., two sheriff’s deputies and a police officer opened fire, striking him an unknown number of times, Ashley said.

Police reported that a deputy had used a Taser on Barre before he opened the door but that it had no effect on him.

Barre was taken to a hospital, where he was soon pronounced dead.

The protest

The crowd had already started forming as detectives began to process the scene, setting up markers to pinpoint the spent shell casings. One man who said he was Barre’s brother berated officers for killing a mentally ill man and asked how they would be able to sleep at night. Activist Angie Pitts demanded answers from police Homicide Unit Sgt. Dave Walker, who told her he needed to return to his investigation.

Tensions escalated as dozens of people gathered at a store across the street and chanted expletives at law enforcement officers. The group increased in size over the next hour and evolved into a full-out protest, prompting the arrival of riot gear and police demanding that reporters and photojournalists move a block away “for their safety.”

A lot of the anger expressed by protesters carried over from the recent acquittal of Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby on a manslaughter charge in the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher, which sparked its own protest outside the Tulsa County Courthouse in mid-May. Friday marked the first police shooting in north Tulsa since that verdict.

“We just don’t want it to be like Betty Shelby,” 31-year-old Adrian Colbert said of Friday’s shooting.

Colbert, a member of Black Lives Matter, criticized what he believed to be a coverup in the aftermath of Crutcher’s death last September and said he hopes the current investigation is handled differently. He said it was unfair that Shelby was allowed to view video of the Crutcher shooting before being interviewed by police. He also said it was unfair that her interview wasn’t conducted until three days after the shooting.

He remarked that Friday’s protest is the largest he has seen in Tulsa.

Legal Action

June 2017 ACLU Statement: 

"We have serious doubts about the capability of Tulsa Police Department (TPD) and Tulsa County Sheriff’s (TCSO) office to investigate this morning’s killing in an unbiased and honest manner. Even if one only considers the last last two years of disturbing conduct in both of these departments, it is absurd to ask the residents of Tulsa County to trust a system that has demonstrated a clear pattern of immoral and unethical behavior to investigate itself. That conclusion might be different if today’s killing were an isolated incident, but it is not. Indeed, both the TPD and TCSO have a track record of dehumanizing and killing people they are supposed to protect and serve. Equally distressing is the Tulsa Police Department’s recent history of giving its officers inappropriate and preferential treatment when investigating their use of deadly force. We call on TPD and TCSO to turn over the investigation to an independent investigative entity and to cooperate fully with that independent investigation. Failure to do so will continue to erode the already fragile trust that exists between Tulsa’s law enforcement and many of the communities they are sworn to serve.”

- ACLU Statement on the officer-involved shooting death of Joshua Anthony Barré

June 2017 Poor police training leads to unnecessary death

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