Man who fatally shot fellow Norfolk officer resigns with $57,500 from city
Published on HamptonRoads.com | PilotOnline.com (http://hamptonroads.com)
The police officer who fatally shot fellow Officer Seneca Darden has resigned and will get a $57,500 severance payment from the city after threatening to sue for being stuck on desk duty.
Officer Gordon Barry shot Darden, who was in plain clothes, during a disturbance in the Young Terrace public housing neighborhood on May 21, 2006. Two inquiries cleared Barry of wrongdoing in 2006 – a criminal investigation by State Police and an internal one by the city that resulted in no discipline.
A draft of the lawsuit sent to the city states that Chief Bruce P. Marquis recommended that Barry return to duty but that City Manager Regina V.K. Williams refused.
Barry, who had worked as a K-9 officer before the incident, has remained on desk duty since the shooting.
Meanwhile, Barry and several other officers face a new civil lawsuit from four siblings who allege they were assaulted by police at the scene – a claim the city attorney said the city will fight.
On Jan. 9, Barry’s attorney, Reid H. Ervin, sent the city a draft of a suit that ultimately was never filed. It would have named the city and Williams.
The Virginian-Pilot obtained a copy of the documents through the Freedom of Information Act.
The draft suit states that the shooting inflamed the black community, with some calling for the city to take action against Barry. It alleges racial discrimination.
“Barry is being singled out by the City Manager because he is white and the officer he shot was black,” it says.
Friday afternoon, Williams said in a phone interview that she could not talk about the specifics of Barry’s concerns and considers the issue a personnel matter.
“I certainly don’t feel like I’ve ever discriminated against anyone,” she said. “It’s doubtful in my mind that is the view of Officer Barry.”
Marquis deferred all questions to Williams. City Attorney Bernard Pishko said the discrimination claim lacked any merit and that there was no “scintilla of evidence” to support it.
“Management was concerned about putting somebody back into the line of fire who had the unfortunate experience of having shot a fellow officer,” Pishko said.
Barry declined to be interviewed.
Councilman Paul R. Riddick, a frequent critic of the police, said that the black community exercised restraint after the shooting and said that in his view Barry was fortunate not to have been prosecuted or fired.
Barry’s draft complaint says an exam in September 2006 concluded he was fit for duty. It says Williams didn’t allow him to work outside security jobs, which officers use to supplement their salaries.
Ervin said that decision cost Barry around $30,000 in lost income. Barry also lost any chance for promotion and suffered mental anguish, the draft suit alleges.
According to a “separation agreement” signed April 16, Barry agreed to resign within 45 days and to relinquish any claims against the city. The city agreed to pay him $57,500 with another $20,000 going to his lawyer. The city also agreed to provide him a “neutral” job reference.
Pishko stressed that the agreement was not a settlement of any lawsuit. The city didn’t consider Barry’s suit to have any value, he said.
Barry has resigned, effective April 30. He has gotten a job elsewhere and plans to continue his career, Ervin said, declining to say where.
“He would have been happy to stay here if he could return to the street in a meaningful position,” he said.
Ervin described the agreement as beneficial to both sides.
Barry was hired by the Norfolk Police Department in February 2000. On May 21, 2006, he responded to a chaotic disturbance following a double shooting in Young Terrace.
The State Police report on Darden’s death was never made public, but Commonwealth’s Attorney Jack Doyle released a written summary. It gives this account:
Several officers, including Darden, were attempting to control a group of people after some shooting incidents. Darden had been assigned to work a plainclothes detail in the Ghent area that night and was in jeans and a T-shirt; Barry did not know plainclothes officers were at the scene. Darden was ordering a man named Denardo Harvey to the ground at gunpoint when Barry arrived.
Barry didn’t realize Darden was an officer and ordered him to drop his weapon. When he didn’t, Barry released his dog, which attacked the wrong man – Philip Harvey.
Darden began to turn toward other officers. Fearing for their safety, Barry fired several times, killing Darden, Doyle’s summary says.
Four Harvey siblings – identified in court papers as Denardo, Philip, Sherita and Ebony, of Norfolk – have filed a lawsuit against officers, stating they were assaulted and their rights were violated. Attorney Curtis T. Brown filed the suit April 1 in Circuit Court.
The Harveys name six current and former officers, including Barry and Chief Bruce P. Marquis, as well as three unnamed officers.
“It’s baseless and we will actively defend it,” Pishko said.
The suit contends Philip Harvey’s ear was bitten off and that the Harveys were sprayed with Mace. It alleges negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It charges that Denardo and Philip were held more than 20 hours and questioned in an attempt to get them to say that they had shot Darden.
After Darden’s death, the department suspended some plainclothes operations, arranged for department-wide training for working in plain clothes and purchased equipment such as badge holders for officers in plain clothes. Officers were instructed that plainclothes officers must follow commands of uniformed ones who arrive at scenes. Officers also have signals now to identify themselves, said Officer Chris Amos, police spokesman.
“Mr. Darden’s death will not be in vain,” said Vice Mayor Anthony Burfoot. “His life will help save other police.”
“No one had the intent to be unfair to Mr. Barry,” Burfoot added. “I wish Mr. Barry well in his future endeavors.”
Matthew Roy, (757) 446-2540, firstname.lastname@example.org