TULSA—Police shot and killed a man struggling with mental illness on Friday, days after authorities were supposed to take him to a court-ordered evaluation so that he could be put on proper medication, his family said.
Tulsa police say Joshua Anthony Barre, 29, walked into a convenience store armed with two large knives when officers shot him. Both the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and Tulsa Police Department responded to the scene after receiving multiple 911 calls reporting a man with “two butcher knives in his hand.” (Warning: Graphic video below)
It’s unclear how many officers fired at Barre, who wasn’t wearing a shirt or shoes, or how many times he was shot. On Friday night, after meeting with Barre’s family, cops released an edited video clip of the store’s security footage, which shows Barre walking in with two knives at his side before falling to the ground.
Barre was not facing the police officers when he was shot, and the knives were at his side and not raised at anyone in the store, the video clip appears to show.
At Tulsa police headquarters, authorities told Barre’s family that at least one TPD officer wore a body camera during the incident but it’s unclear if anything was recorded due to technical issues. One police official told them the body cameras were in a testing phase, and that they had called Panasonic for help in retrieving the footage.
The police-involved shooting comes only weeks after Tulsa residents came to terms with another high-profile incident. Last month, a jury acquitted Tulsa cop Betty Jo Shelby in the death of unarmed black man Terence Crutcher, who had his hands up next to his stalled vehicle when he was shot and killed.
On Saturday morning, Barre’s relatives gathered at his mother’s house to mourn him and question what happened. They said they still have not been permitted to see Barre’s body, which is with the medical examiner.
Barre’s mother, Etta Lowe-Barre, 57, said her son had schizoaffective and bipolar disorders and was not taking his medication when cops killed him. She said Barre was an artist who sketched comics and loved being in nature.
“I don’t want people to report that he was just a deranged man,” Lowe-Barre told The Daily Beast at her home on Saturday. “He was a normal human being with a lot of love in his heart for mankind. He wanted everybody to love each other, and to create a better world. That’s all he talked about.
“He just had a mental illness, and he needed help,” she added. “He was afraid.”
Lowe-Barre, a high-school history teacher, said her son’s psychiatrist had obtained a court order for a mental health evaluation, and that Barre had been off his medications for about a month.
The last time she spoke to her son was via text message — minutes before he was gunned down by police.
Around 9:18 a.m., Barre texted her asking about a leaking sink at his family’s rental home, where he was living while trying to find his own apartment.
She responded 10 minutes later, telling her son she spoke to the plumber and to give him a call to fix it. But Barre never responded.
At 9:48 a.m. that day, Tulsa County deputies requested backup from the Tulsa Police Department after a neighbor allegedly spotted Barre in the street clutching two large knives.
Meanwhile, Tulsa PD says it received four separate 911 calls from residents describing the knives. One caller at 9:53 a.m. said a man had “two butcher knives in his hand” and appeared to be “headed someplace to do some harm to somebody.”
Another caller at 9:56 a.m. indicated Barre was “walking in the streets with a machete, threatening people,” cops say.
Sheriff’s deputies say they encountered Barre at 300 West 50th Court North and ordered him to drop the knives. They told Barre they were there to help him, but Barre still refused to stop or set down the weapons, police say.
Authorities say that Barre threatened to kill them, and continued walking to MLK Boulevard while deputies trailed him and continued commanding him to stop. Barre walked nearly 1 mile south to the convenience store at 4449 North MLK Boulevard.
It was during this 15-minute walk that authorities “had plenty of time to help him and help get him to the hospital,” Lowe-Barre told The Daily Beast.
Yet police say Barre did not listen to commands to stop and not enter the store. Believing Barre was endangering the public, one deputy deployed a Taser before he reached the doorway. The Taser, according to authorities, had no effect on him.
Barre continued walking toward the shop and as he opened the door, officers fired their weapons. Video footage shows Barre collapsing just after entering the store. Officers rendered aid and called EMS, and Barre pronounced dead at the hospital, authorities say.
A crowd of nearly 300 protesters gathered shortly after the incident, and threw rocks and pieces of concrete at officers, police say. This prompted the departments to briefly deploy riot police to break up the crowd, which scattered not long after.
In a press release, both police departments said the officers involved were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. Their names were not released.
Tulsa authorities knew of Barre since at least May 31, when the sheriff’s office received orders to locate Barre for his mental health evaluation.
The officers who tried locating him last month were with TCSO’s mental health unit and have specialized training, authorities say.
The mental health unit made several attempts to locate Barre, police say, including on June 1 when Barre was allegedly armed with a hammer and yelling at deputies at his residence. Police say that because Barre “did not pose an immediate threat,” they left his house and chose to follow up with him on a later date.
On June 5, a neighbor allegedly told deputies that Barre was up the night before and scaring her children. Cops say they were unable to locate Barre that day.
Deputies located Barre alone at his home on June 7, when he allegedly threatened to kill the officers. They say they did not force entry and left the scene, because he didn’t pose an immediate threat to the public.
Still, Barre’s family says he would still be alive if deputies had taken him in for his mental health treatment days ago.
Daniel Smolen, an attorney for Barre’s mother, said the family is looking for answers on why Barre was shot and killed. They’ve only seen a “heavily edited version” of the store security video, Smolen claimed, and do not know what happened between Barre and law enforcement in the moments before he was killed.
“The family is still in shock and mourning Josh’s sudden and violent demise,” Smolen said in a statement. “However, they cannot fully mourn, nor obtain any measure of closure, until they have all the pertinent facts and evidence. All we know at this point is that what began as a ‘mental health’ pickup ended in tragedy. We need to know why.”
“Further, is there dash camera video? This question, too, needs to be definitively answered. If there is dash cam video — from TPD or TSCO — it must be released,” Smolen said.
Lowe-Barre said her son’s mental health began declining in 2010, after his father suddenly died of a blood clot. At the time, he was attending school in Nevada and returned home to transfer to Tulsa Community College.
The mother described him as a gifted musician who played saxophone in elementary school and could master any instrument he picked up.
Barre had no criminal record, aside from a public intoxication ticket from 2012 after he walked home from a friend’s barbecue, Low-Barre said.
“I’ve never seen my child fight, even with his brothers,” Low-Barre said. “All his family loved him. Nobody hugged like Joshua.”
Nyesha Barre, 32, said her brother never said goodbye without giving her a hug or kiss.
“He always showed you love. Me and my other brothers, we hug and stuff. His hug was different. He showed you a different type of love. It was always something special,” she said.