Three Oklahoma law enforcement officers fatally shot a black man while trying to pick him up for a mental health issue, triggering a protest on a city street that prompted dozens of officers in riot gear showing force. Tulsa County sheriff’s deputies were attempting to pick up 29-year-old Joshua Barre near his house on Friday, but the man walked away and to a nearby convenience store instead, Tulsa police spokesman Leland Ashley said.
Two deputies and a Tulsa police officer opened fire before Barre could enter the store when they discovered that he was carrying two knives and became concerned about the safety of the people who were inside the business, Ashley said. The deputies who fired the shots are white and the police officer is black. All three have been put on routine administrative leave. It’s not clear how many times Barre was struck. Ashley said authorities are reviewing footage believed to have been recorded by police dashboard and store surveillance cameras. He said an officer’s body camera also might have captured what happened.
Deputies had gone to Barre’s home several times since a civil mental health pickup order was issued May 31, police and the sheriff’s office said last night in a joint statement. On June 1 and 7, he made threats about what he would do if they forced their way inside his home and they left since he was no immediate threat to the public, according to the statement. On June 5, they couldn’t find him.
It was different on Friday, when four 911 callers reported seeing Barre walking the streets with two large knives and threatening people, the statement said. When Barre approached the convenience store, deputies ordered him to stop. A deputy used his stun gun on Barre, but it “had no effect,” the statement said. Deputies and a police officer began shooting when Barre opened the door to the store to go inside.
Dozens of black residents gathered at an intersection near the store within minutes of the shooting on Tulsa’s north side. Some shouted, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” At least two dozen officers and deputies wearing riot gear assembled in the store’s parking lot. The crowd of residents eventually dispersed.
Some residents questioned why officers didn’t use less lethal means to restrain Barre, given his fragile mental state. The shooting comes about three weeks after jurors acquitted a white Tulsa police officer of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man last year.
The verdict in favor of Betty Jo Shelby, who was allowed to return to the force, sparked peaceful protests and calls from community leaders and family members of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher to demand more accountability from the police.
Civil rights groups called on police and the sheriff’s office to turn the investigation of Friday’s shooting over to an independent agency. Not doing so “will continue to erode the already fragile trust that exists” between law enforcement and the community, said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of Oklahoma’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter.
Cleo Harris, who stood behind the yellow tape that authorities used to cordon off the scene, said blacks like him who live on the city’s north side are fed up with what they perceive as a double standard in how the city is policed. “People are upset, they’re tired,” the 50-year-old Harris said. “Black residents in north Tulsa want to be treated the same way (police) treat residents on the south side.”
Barre’s next-door neighbour, Angelica Hearn, 33, said: “He didn’t bother no one. The police should’ve sent someone equipped to handle this.”