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New cellphone video has prompted Salt Lake City prosecutors to take a second look at a police-involved shooting that sparked interest a year ago over the killing of a man shoveling snow.
The new video purports to show Salt Lake City police officer Matthew Taylor standing over 42-year-old James Barker, who appears to be lying handcuffed and motionless on the ground. A series of sounds can be heard at the beginning of the enhanced video, which former Davis County Sheriff William Lawrence and others believe to be gunshots.
“From my experience, the thousands of times that I’ve heard gunshots, it sounds to me very clearly to be gunshots,” Lawrence, who released the video publicly, told NBC affiliate KSL. “I need answers, this disturbs me.”
The video was taken by a neighbor of Barker's during the incident on Jan. 8, 2015.
Taylor had been responding to reports of a man knocking on doors in the Salt Lake City neighborhood. Barker’s partner, Heidi Keilbaugh, told local media at a rally on Friday marking the one-year anniversary of his death that she had asked him to go shovel ice. But she never saw him again.
Police body cam video taken from Taylor shows the officer approaching Barker on a patio and a confrontation escalating. Barker is seen becoming increasingly agitated, yelling, “I’m trying to make a living,” and then swinging his shovel at the officer.
The body cam is knocked off of Taylor in the scuffle and cuts out about 20 seconds later.
Taylor told authorities that he feared for his life and fired three shots at Barker in self-defense.
Based on the body cam video and Taylor’s testimony, Salt Lake City District Attorney Sam Gill ruled last year that the shooting was justified and Taylor was exonerated.
“We’re committed to finding the truth … our office is not afraid to call it like we see it.”
But after viewing the new video on Friday, Gill has decided to re-examine the incident.
“That was not made available to us (last year), and so I have to go back and see how that impacts our original conclusions,” Gill told KSL, adding, “We’re committed to finding the truth … our office is not afraid to call it like we see it.”
The Salt Lake City Police Department has not commented on the latest footage, but the officer's union, the Salt Lake City Police Association, released a statement in support of Taylor.
“It is our belief Officer Taylor did not shoot James Barker while he was handcuffed,” the group said.
They added that they are "confident in the initial investigation of the James Barker incident."
The Salt Lake City District Attorney’s Office plans to bring in experts to authenticate the video and help determine whether the sounds are actually gunshots.
Gill warned that it will be a lengthy process, but that his office “will chase this conclusion, wherever it leads us."