Dozens of law enforcement officers in riot gear responded to protests Friday in Tulsa, Okla., following a police shooting of a knife-wielding man with mental health issues.
Two Tulsa County Sheriff’s deputies and a Tulsa Police officer shot and killed Joshua Barre, 29, in front of a convenience store near his house. The deputies were trying to pick him up for a mental health issue but fired on Barre when they noticed he was carrying two knives and attempting to enter the store, police said.
The deputies earlier tried to pick up Barre near his house, but the man walked away and headed to the nearby store instead, Tulsa police spokesman Leland Ashley said. Barre later died at a hospital. Tulsa Police opened an investigation into the shooting.
“They encountered this individual who had two knives. They followed him to this location, and at some point the officers used deadly force,” Ashley told reporters at the scene of the shooting.
Surveillance video from inside the convenience store shows a shirtless Barre, who is black, attempting to enter the store, two knives clutched in his right hand. The law enforcement officers shoot him and he falls to the floor just inside the store.
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, as well as store surveillance cameras. He said an officer’s body camera also might have captured what happened.
The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office told FOX23 the two deputies involved in the shooting were part of a mental health unit. 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 Friday night in a joint statement.
On June 1 and 7, Barre 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. On Friday, 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.
At least two dozen officers and deputies wearing riot gear assembled in the store’s parking lot. More than 50 police vehicles responded to the scene, and the Tulsa Police Department’s massive Mobile Command Center made a brief appearance. 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.
“I never thought that in 2017, some s— like this would be going down,” Bobby Eaton Sr., 82, who was a leader in the city’s civil rights movement, told the Tulsa World. “But here we are.”
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,” Harris, 50, said. “Black residents in north Tulsa want to be treated the same way (police) treat residents on the south side.”
Barre’s next-door neighbor, Angelica Hearn, 33, said: “He didn’t bother no one. The police should’ve sent someone equipped to handle this.”
In the midst of Friday’s chaotic scene, police chaplain and pastor Andru Morgan sat on a curb with his head on his clasped hands, praying and asking God for for help in the situation. He had spent the previous hours trying to comfort Barre’s family and upset spectators.
“This is a group of people that has been disenfranchised and upset, and we’re going to strive in this community to do more and try to gather everyone together,” Morgan told Tulsa World. “The common theme here is we understand that hate can’t drive out hate. We understand that only love can do it.”
Contributing: Associated Press