Barmore family attorney makes new call for federal investigation
The attorney for Mark Anthony Barmore's family has called for a federal review of the evidence in the case a day after the Rockford City Council approved a $1.1 million settlement with the family.
"This was a tragedy that could and should have been avoided and resulted in yet another death of a young, unarmed man at the hands of police officers," said Larry Rogers, Jr., the family's attorney.
The Barmore family sued the city and officers for $10 million in damages after the August 2009 death of Barmore. He was shot to death in the basement day care at the Kingdom Authority International Ministries Church in downtown Rockford. Police said Barmore was wanted at the time for an alleged assault and they said Barmore grabbed an officer's gun before he was fatally shot.
Witness Marissa Brown said Barmore was shot multiple times as he tried to surrender to police. A Winnebago County Grand Jury ruled the officers' use of deadly force was justified.
Rogers said in a statement to 13 News, "In addition to the tragic and unnecessary death of unarmed Mark Barmore, this occurrence, like that involving the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York calls into question the way in which local prosecutors use, or some would say "misuse" grand juries. In the case of Mark Barmore, Winnebago County State's Attorney Joe Bruscato presented the facts surrounding the shooting of Mark Barrnore before a Winnebago grand jury, without presenting Marissa Brown, the primary eyewitness to the shooting who consistently stated that Mark was shot while his hands were up. If the grand jury was truly being asked to determine whether criminal charges were warranted, how could Mr. Bruscato properly present the case without the live testimony of the primary eyewitness?"
Bruscato told 13 News Brown was subpoenaed to appear and she did not. The hearing lasted one day, the prosecutor noted.
"Generally speaking, live testimony is not required," said Bruscato. "Prosecutors can use other forms of evidence to communicate the same information to grand juries."
As for Rogers' claim there was any misuse of a grand jury, Bruscato told 13 News, "I was following the law on grand jury procedures that have been set up in Illinois."
Rogers said until there is a systemic change in the way excessive force cases are investigated and prosecuted, the public's confidence will not be restored.
"We challenge State's Attorney Bruscato to re-examine all of the evidence relevant to the police-involved shooting of Mark Anthony Barmore or refer this matter to Federal authorities," said Rogers.
Bruscato said he will leave it to federal authorities to decide if they wish to take up the matter.
"At this point in time, there is not new information," said Bruscato. "We stand by and are satisfied with the decision that was made by the grand jury and this office. I have no plans to take further action."
The attorney for one of the officers in the case, Stan North, provided 13 News with a copy of the Department of Justice's July 2013 decision after examining the evidence in the case.
The legal document from North's attorney, Ronald Barch, stated:
"Dear Officer North,
The Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division enforces the federal criminal civil rights laws, such as the willful abuse of authority by public officials that deprives individuals of liberties and rights defined in the United States Constitution or federal law. We evaluate allegations of civil rights violations to determine whether the evidence and circumstances of the case warrant a federal criminal prosecution.
We received a complaint alleging that you violated the civil rights of Mark Barmore. We recently completed our review of the results of the investigation of that complaint to determine whether a 'federal criminal prosecution was warranted. After careful consideration, we concluded, in conjunction with the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois, that the evidence does not establish a prosecutable violation of the federal criminal civil rights statutes. Accordingly, we have closed our investigation.
This Division is dedicated to the enforcement of federal criminal civil rights statutes, We appreciate your cooperation in our shared responsibility to ensure the impartial and effective enforcement of our laws."
The document was signed by Robert Moossy, Jr., with the DOJ's Civil Rights Division.
The City of Rockford will pay the Barmore family settlement with money budgeted in the risk management fund. Some taxpayers are upset about the notion of paying with their money.
But the City Attorney, Patrick Hayes, said with the recent grand jury decisions in other parts of the country, the city may have saved itself from a financial disaster.
"Juries are certainly influenced by current events and with the present environment there is clearly exposure to a large verdict and so controlling that and resolving the case at a reasonable amount that the city is able to satisfy. it's our responsibility to advance those ideas."
Hayes said the settlement will come from the $1.8 million already budgeted in the city's risk management fund.