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Norfolk officer who fatally shot
colleague still on the sidelines

By MATTHEW ROY, The Virginian-Pilot
May 7, 2007
Last updated: 7:27 PM
Officer Gordon Barry

 

NORFOLK - Officer Gordon Barry, who mistakenly shot and killed a fellow officer last year, wants to return to routine police work. But nearly a year after the death of Officer Seneca Darden, Barry remains on an administrative assignment - still a police officer, but not on the streets.

"You take a fellow officer's life, that's not to be brushed off lightly," Chief Bruce P. Marquis said. "Is a year enough time to recover from something like that? I don't know. And until I'm fully convinced that he is fully recovered psychologically and emotionally, he'll continue to carry out the duties he now has."

Barry's attorney, Peter Decker III, said his client, now 30, has done everything the police department asked of him, including attending counseling. He said Barry still hopes to return to more traditional police work, or to get an assignment such as Harbor Patrol, and is waiting patiently.

"Gordon feels fit for duty," Decker said. "He still carries a heavy heart, but he'd like to get out there if they'd let him."

The last night Barry worked the streets as a K-9 officer was May 21, 2006.

He responded to a chaotic disturbance following a double shooting at Young Terrace. He saw Darden, who was wearing plainclothes, with his gun drawn and took him for a threat. Barry ordered him to drop the weapon. When Darden didn't, Barry released his dog, which attacked another man. Finally, fearing for the safety of other uniformed officers, Barry shot Darden.

The incident set off a round of investigations, and led some to question what role race might have played in the shooting. Darden was black; Barry is white.

After the shooting, Barry was placed first on leave and then on administrative duties, reporting to assignments that did not involve patrolling the streets. His return to work was criticized by Darden's family and their lawyer, Kenneth R. Melvin. Melvin said the move showed the city was "tone deaf" to how the officer's death was resonating.

The police department, meanwhile, began new plainclothes training for all officers.

An investigation by state police cleared Barry of any criminal wrongdoing in Darden's death, and the city's own internal investigation resulted in no disciplinary action. Still, he has not returned to routine police work.

Barry is currently assisting the newly formed bomb squad, according to Marquis.

In February, the city agreed to pay $600,000 to settle a civil claim by Darden's family.

Marquis said recently that if he were to consider reassigning Barry, he would first speak with Darden's widow, Brindle, and her family.

"There's still a lot of healing that has to take place," Marquis said. "And there's no set timetable for these things."