Barlow Use Of Force Justified Says DA Thomas L. Hardy


Inyo County District Attorney
Use of Force Report
Incident Date: July 24, 2021
Inyo County Sheriff Report Number 21-07-097
2329 North Sierra Highway and 969 Tu Su Lane,
Bishop, CA
Inyo DA Number 027-0035923
Prepared By:
Thomas L. Hardy
Inyo County District Attorney
September 7, 2021

Introduction:
In the early morning hours of July 24, 2021, two Deputies of the Inyo
County Sheriff contacted George Clinton Barlow III in the parking lot of the Bishop
Chevron Station at 2329 North Sierra Highway in the unincorporated portion of
Inyo County near the City of Bishop. The contact led to a use of force by the
Deputies that was captured on video by two non-law enforcement witnesses.
Those videos later circulated on social media.
It was determined that it was appropriate for the District Attorney to
conduct an independent “use of force” investigation into the actions of the
Deputies.
The sole purpose of a District Attorney’s investigation is to determine
whether or not the actions of the Deputies violated any criminal law. This report
does not attempt to review any potential civil, administrative, or policy issues that
may arise as a result of the incident.
For all the reasons set forth, it is my conclusion that the Deputies’ use of
force was lawful.
Materials Reviewed:
Inyo County Sheriff’s Report 21-07-097, together with Supplemental reports 1, 2,
and 3, including photographs.
Inyo County District Attorney’s Investigations Division Reports in case number
027-0035923.
Bishop Police Department report 21-0570
“Axon” body camera recording from Deputy #1
“Axon” body camera recording from Deputy #2
“Axon” body camera recording from Bishop Police Department Officer
Citizen video recordings
Surveillance video recordings from the Bishop Chevron Station for the time period
immediately prior to and during the contact in question.

Surveillance video recordings from Bishop Automotive Repair for the time period
immediately prior to and during the contact in question.
California Highway Patrol “CAD” log of events
Inyo County Sheriff Dispatch Audio Recordings of event
Training Records of Involved Deputies
Inyo County Sheriff Use of Force Policy
Factual Background:
The Incident:
The following description of the incident is drawn from the Sheriff’s
Department incident reports in its case number 21-07-097, review of the body
cam and surveillance video taken during the incident, and interviews completed
by District Attorney Investigators. It is presented in summary form, rather than
an attempt to detail each witness’ statement.
Deputies were dispatched to a potential restraining order violation case at
approximately 2:07 a.m. on July 24, 2021. They arrived at the initial scene at
approximately 2:35 a.m., and were not able to locate the parties to that call. They
then went to 969 Tu Su in an attempt to locate the reporting party. They were
not successful. However, at approximately 2:43 a.m., they heard a subject yelling
in the parking lot of the Bishop Chevron station on North Sierra Highway (across
Tu Su from their location). The Chevron station was closed at the time.
As the Deputies approached, Deputy 1 notified the Sheriff Department
dispatcher that he and Deputy 2 were going to contact “one male” who was
“either (f) or Eleven-Five”—short-hand for someone allegedly violating Penal
Code section 647(f) (drunk in public) or Health and Safety Code section 11550
(under the influence of a controlled substance). Given the early morning hour,
the fact that the Chevron station was closed, and their observation of an
individual yelling, the Deputies actions were entirely appropriate and, in fact,
what is expected of peace officers. Deputy 1 crossed Tu Su on foot, while Deputy
2 drove across the street and parked to the south of Bishop Chevron.

As Deputy 1 arrived at Bishop Chevron, he called out to the subject by
saying “Yo”. The Deputy’s tone and tenor were calm and friendly. The subject
replied “Hi”, to which the Deputy also replied “Hi”. The Deputy’s tone was still
non-confrontational. At this point, the subject responded by saying words which
sound like “Can I kill you, too?” These words were stated at a distance from the
Deputy, and the body cam audio recording is not perfectly clear.
At this point, the subject began to run aggressively towards Deputy 1.
Deputy 1 clearly attempts to create distance between himself and the subject by
moving back and away from the subject (this is most clearly shown on the Bishop
Chevron surveillance recording). Deputy 1 says to the subject “Don’t run at me
bro”, and then “Back up, you’re going to get tased”. At this point, the subject
continues to advance on Deputy 1, saying “What do you want” and making
comments that the Deputy should leave. The subject never stops advancing on
Deputy 1. Deputy 1 continues to order the subject to “Stop” (giving the command
at least twice). The Deputy’s tone is assertive, but still calm.
When the subject fails to stop, Deputy 1 uses his Taser. It is ineffective,
probably because of the relatively heavy shirt worn by the subject. The subject
takes off his shirt, and continues to threaten Deputy 1 and begins to advance on
him again. Deputy 1 now removes his baton.
As this is occurring, Deputy 2 comes on scene. After parking his vehicle to
the south of Bishop Chevron, he had proceeded on foot around the back of the
business and then when he heard the activity, proceeded to run to Deputy 1’s
assistance. By this time, both Deputies were ordering the subject to get on the
ground, and the subject was refusing. Deputy 2 used his Taser, which caused the
subject to go to the ground, but the subject succeeded in removing the Taser
probes and was attempting to stand up. At almost the same time, the subject’s
dog appeared. The pit bull-type dog was aggressively lunging and biting at the
Deputies. At one point, the subject can be heard to tell the dog to “Get them”.
The scene at this point is chaotic. Deputy 1 administers one baton strike to
the subject’s torso, but the subject is able to grab onto the baton and begins
attempting to disarm Deputy 1. The subject’s dog is attacking the Deputies, and
Deputy 1, while struggling for his baton, is advising the subject that they will
shoot his dog. The dog’s attack continues, and Deputy 2 was able to obtain a
clear shot at the dog and dispatched it with one shot. The subject continued to
fight for control of the baton.

Deputy 2 was then able to use his OC (oleoresin capsicum) pepper spray
directly on the subject’s face. This allowed Deputy 1 to regain control of his
baton, and he administered one additional blow. While Deputy 1 was aiming for
the subject’s chest and arm, the subject continued to move and the blow landed
on the subject’s head. Despite all of this, the subject was able to stand up and
advance first on Deputy 2, who created space by backing away, and then again on
Deputy 1. Deputy 1 advised the subject that he (Deputy 1) was going to shoot
him (he did not). The subject began to move away towards the apartment
building across the street. Deputy 1 followed, advising the subject to stop or he
would be bit (Deputy 2 had returned to his patrol vehicle to deploy his canine
partner).
The time period from the initial contact until the subject began to cross Tu
Su Lane was approximately one minute and 28 seconds, and at that point the
subject was not obeying commands and was moving towards private dwellings.
The Sheriff’s Department canine subdued the subject and, as trained, bit
and held the subject as the Deputies arrived (which was almost immediate). The
Deputies attempted to restrain and handcuff the subject, but the subject would
not comply and continued to fight with the Deputies—even biting the hand and
arm of Deputy 1. The Deputies were still struggling with the subject when an
officer from the Bishop Police Department arrived as back up. Eventually, the
three officers were able to handcuff and then shackle the subject. Almost
immediately an ambulance was requested and dispatched. Prior to the arrival of
the ambulance, additional back up from the California Highway Patrol arrived, and
helped to hold the subject.
It is not clear exactly when the subject was identified as Mr. Barlow, but the
Deputies were referring to the subject by name (“George”) as they were
attempting to calm him and gain compliance. They both reported being familiar
with Mr. Barlow and had had prior law enforcement contact with him.
Mr. Barlow continued to struggle, even with the ambulance crew. Radio
traffic from the ambulance on the way to the hospital stated that Mr. Barlow was
struggling and that they were unable to control him, and that the patient was
“actively fighting” them. One CHP officer rode in the ambulance.
From the videos, it appeared that the only injuries suffered by Mr. Barlow
in the altercation were a laceration to his head (likely caused by the baton strike)

and the bite from the canine. As indicated below, Mr. Barlow refused to
cooperate in the investigation (as is his right) but because of that refusal it was
not possible to obtain his full medical records to determine if any other injuries
may have been suffered. It is known that Mr. Barlow was home and in apparently
good condition on August 5, 2021 when he was contacted by his Parole Agent.
Once arriving at the hospital, Mr. Barlow continued to fight. The
emergency room doctor reported to the original investigating Deputies that staff
at the hospital was required to “biochemically paralyze” Mr. Barlow due to his
“overwhelming level of combativeness”.
While it cannot be confirmed (due to the unavailability of medical records),
Mr. Barlow’s behavior is consistent with someone being under the influence of a
controlled substance. Not only does he have a record of controlled substance
use, but his ability to overcome two Taser deployments and the use of OC pepper
spray indicate an extraordinary resistance to standard, non-lethal means of
controlling suspects. It was also the initial suspicion of the Deputies when they
contacted him.
In the course of the incident, Deputy 1 suffered numerous minor abrasions
and bruising. Deputy 2 suffered a dog-bite puncture wound.
District Attorney Investigators contacted several occupants of the
apartments at 969 Tu Su. Their observations were substantially consistent with
the body cam and other video recordings. Some expressed their view that the
force used was excessive, but none offered any factual information contradicting
the Deputies’ reports.
Pre-Incident Behavior:
While not apparently known to the Deputies at the time of the incident,
two civilian witnesses came forward during the investigation and reported a
contact with Mr. Barlow in the early morning hours of July 24 prior to the incident
in question.
Those individuals reported contacting Mr. Barlow as he was lying in the
roadway at the intersection of West Line Street and Barlow Lane. The citizens
stopped to see if Mr. Barlow needed assistance. He immediately stood up, and
took a fighting stance. He made statements to the effect that the government
was trying to kill him. Mr. Barlow’s dog was with him at this time, and Mr. Barlow
attempted to “sic” the dog on the individuals. Mr. Barlow then left the scene.
Both citizens described Mr. Barlow as appearing to be drunk or under the
influence. Both witnesses were positive in their identification, and each
independently identified him in a photographic line-up.
This information, while not dispositive, is consistent with the observations
of the Deputies and supports the observations made in their reports.
Mr. Barlow’s Background:
At the time of the incident, Mr. Barlow was well known to Inyo County law
enforcement officers. In a larger community where a subject may not be known
to all or most members of the law enforcement community, this information may
not be entirely relevant, but in our rural county a peace officer’s knowledge of
individuals and their criminal history is relevant in making a “totality of the
circumstances” analysis as required by law. All of this information is in the public
record.
Mr. Barlow was (and remains) on parole from the California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitation for felony violations of Penal Code section 273.5
(commonly known as felony domestic violence) and Penal Code section 245 (a)(1)
(commonly known as assault with a deadly weapon). He had been sentenced to
prison following his failure to comply with terms of Probation.
He had been in custody at the Inyo County Jail as recently as July 20, 2021
(four days before this incident). He had pled “guilty” to simple assault and
released on another grant of probation. He was also on felony probation for
taking controlled substances into the Inyo County Jail.
He has suffered several prior convictions for misdemeanor battery-type
offenses and for controlled substance possession and usage.
Post-Incident Behavior:
On or about August 5, 2021, DA Investigators contacted Mr. Barlow’s Parole
Agent requesting assistance in arranging an interview with Mr. Barlow. When
contacted later in the day on August 5 by his Parole Agent, Mr. Barlow indicated
that he would not cooperate in the investigation, and refused to sign releases for
his medical information. Consequently, we have not been able to obtain detailed
medical information regarding his injuries, nor his version of the events of July 24,
2021. According to his Parole Agent, when he gave Mr. Barlow the business card
of the DA Investigator and asked him to call, Mr. Barlow ate the business card
(Mr. Barlow chewed it up and swallowed it). Mr. Barlow also tested
presumptively “positive” for the use of methamphetamine when tested by his
Parole Agent. Mr. Barlow, of course, was under no obligation to cooperate in this
investigation.
On or about August 18, 2021, Mr. Barlow was transported to Northern Inyo
Hospital by his family for care apparently unrelated to the July 24 incident. Mr.
Barlow refused to remain at the hospital, left the emergency room, and stole a
vehicle from the hospital parking lot. He drove that vehicle home, where he was
located by law enforcement. He is now facing felony vehicle theft charges as a
result of that incident.
On or about August 24, 2021, Mr. Barlow was arrested for a violation of
Penal Code Section 451(b), arson of an inhabited dwelling, and five counts of
attempted murder, as the result of an investigation indicating that he had set fire
to an occupied mobile home. Formal charges are pending in that case was well.
As to the incident of July 24, as well as the incidents of August 18 and
August 24, Mr. Barlow is presumed to be innocent until the contrary is proven
beyond a reasonable doubt.
Legal Analysis:
The legal analysis of this incident is controlled primarily by California Penal
Code section 835a. That section provides, in subsection (b), that “[a]ny peace
officer who has reasonable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has
committed a public offense may use objectively reasonable force to effect the
arrest, to prevent escape, or to overcome resistance.”
Subsection(c)(1) details when a peace officer may use deadly force upon a
person. While this incident did not involve the use of deadly force, it is instructive
to know that deadly force may be used when an officer “reasonably believes,
based on the totality of the circumstances, that such force is necessary for either
of the following reasons: (A) To defend against an imminent threat of death or
serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person. (B) To apprehend a
fleeing person for any felony that threatened or resulted in death or serious
bodily injury, if the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or
serious bodily injury to another unless immediately apprehended.”
Subsection (d) also provides that “A peace officer who makes or attempts
to make an arrest need not retreat or desist from their efforts by reason of the
resistance or threatened resistance of the person being arrested. A peace officer
shall not be deemed an aggressor or lose the right to self-defense by the use of
objectively reasonable force in compliance with subdivisions (b) and (c) to effect
the arrest or to prevent escape or to overcome resistance. For purposes of this
subdivision, “retreat” does not mean tactical repositioning or other deescalation
tactics.”
Finally, subdivision (e) provides the following definitions:
(1) “Deadly force” means any use of force that creates a substantial risk of
causing death or serious bodily injury, including, but not limited to, the
discharge of a firearm.
(2) A threat of death or serious bodily injury is “imminent” when, based on
the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable officer in the same
situation would believe that a person has the present ability,
opportunity, and apparent intent to immediately cause death or serious
bodily injury to the peace officer or another person. An imminent harm
is not merely a fear of future harm, but one that, from appearances,
must be instantly confronted and addressed.
(3) “Totality of circumstances” means all the facts known to the peace
officer at the time, including the conduct of the officer and the subject
leading up to the use of deadly force.
In reviewing peace officer use of force, the United States Supreme Court in
Graham v. Conner (1989) 490 U.S. 386 held that the reasonableness of a
particular use of force must be analyzed from the perspective “of a reasonable
officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” Id. at 396.
The Court further cautioned that the determination must “allo[w] for the fact that
police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments – in circumstances
that are tense, uncertain and evolving.” Id. at 397.
Pulling apart the layers of the analysis, the first question is whether or not
the Deputies in this case used “deadly force”. I conclude that they did not (except
to the extent that deadly force was used to end the threat from Mr. Barlow’s
dog). At no time did the Deputies present or direct their firearms towards Mr.
Barlow. All techniques and devices used were directed at obtaining compliance
from Mr. Barlow, not towards inflicting injury. The second question is whether or
not the force they used was “reasonable” under the totality of the circumstances.
The review of the evidence shows that Deputy 1 approached Mr. Barlow in
a friendly manner. Upon contact, Mr. Barlow said words to the effect of “Can I kill
you,too?” and immediately ran at Deputy 1. This is confirmed not only by the
Deputy’s body camera, but also by the surveillance video from Bishop Chevron
and Bishop Automotive. Deputy 1 attempted to create space between himself
and Mr. Barlow by stepping backwards and ordering Mr. Barlow to stop running
at him. The commands went from friendly in tone to very direct as Mr. Barlow
rapidly closed distance. Mr. Barlow is substantially larger than Deputy 1, and
while at one point Mr. Barlow put his hands above his head, Mr. Barlow was still
rapidly closing distance between himself and the Deputy.
At this instant in time, any reasonable peace officer would recognize that
he or she is personally observing (and is a victim of) a felony violation of Penal
Code section 69, resisting an executive officer by means of a threat or violence.
Deputy 1 responded to this threat by deploying his Taser. A Taser is a
“neuro muscular incapacitation” device that uses an electrical charge to disable
an aggressive individual. It is designed to give peace officers a less dangerous way
to control a suspect who is using force against them. The initial Taser deployment
was ineffective. Mr. Barlow removed his shirt, and with it the Taser prongs, and
continued to advance on Deputy 1. A second Taser deployment by Deputy 2 was
also ineffective.
When the Taser was ineffective, Deputy 1 drew his baton—a striking
instrument—in an effort to stop the advance on him. Mr. Barlow grabbed the
baton and attempted to take it from Deputy 1. Mr. Barlow released his grip on
the baton only when Deputy 2 sprayed Mr. Barlow with OC (oleoresin capsicum)
pepper spray.
Only after (1) attempting to use verbal commands to stop the attack; (2)
the unsuccessful use of Tasers; and (3) the unsuccessful use of a baton, was
Deputy 2’s canine partner deployed. The canine, as trained, bit and held Mr.
Barlow until the Deputies, and an assisting Officer from the Bishop Police
Department, were able to handcuff Mr. Barlow (and eventually apply shackles).
While Deputy 2 drew and discharged his firearm to stop Mr. Barlow’s dog
from attacking the Deputies, at no time was a firearm aimed at or used against
Mr. Barlow.
What the evidence shows is a reasonable escalation of non-lethal force in
response to an individual who was running directly towards a uniformed Deputy
Sheriff and who refused simple commands to stop running at the Deputy.
Alternate forms of non-lethal force were only used when other forms proved to
be ineffective and Mr. Barlow continued to fight with the Deputies.
It is also important to note that the Deputies had no duty to retreat or
desist in their efforts because of Mr. Barlow’s resistance. Mr. Barlow’s resistance
continued even after he was handcuffed (and shackled) and was being
transported to the hospital, and even while medical personnel were attempting
to treat him.
While Mr. Barlow (and the Deputies) was injured in the incident, it does not
appear that the injuries were life-threatening. Given Mr. Barlow’s refusal to
cooperate with the investigation it is impossible to determine the exact extent of
his injuries, but it appears it they were limited to a laceration on his head, and the
bite from the Sheriff’s Department canine. Even after being taken into custody he
exhibited the physical ability to actively resist treatment, and was still verbal. It
appears that he was released from the hospital at some time prior to August 5,
2021—the day he was contacted at his home by his Parole Agent—and the Parole
Agent reported only seeing the bite injury. Mr. Barlow appeared to otherwise be
ambulatory, was engaging the Parole Agent in conversation (and was
presumptively positive for the use of methamphetamine).
Taken together, it appears, then, that the Deputies did not use “deadly
force” as described by Penal Code section 835a, and that the force that they did
use was reasonable as defined in the context of Penal Code Section 835a,
subsection (b).

Conclusion:
The use of force by anyone, including reasonable peace officers performing
their duties is often disturbing, and rarely easy to watch. Nevertheless, peace
officers have a grave responsibility to protect society, and the law allows them to
use reasonable force when necessary. The incident of July 24, 2021 was one of
those unfortunate situations where peace officers were required to use force to
protect themselves and, potentially, others. The use of force was legally justified.

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9 Comments
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eastside123
eastside123
6 days ago

This really shows how much those deputies DIDN’T want to shoot someone that night.

rick OBrien
rick OBrien
10 days ago

I would say that Michele has a much more educated opinion than the one above . Drunks don’t have super-human strength or are impervious to pain . More than likely ,it was a cornucopia of anything he could get his hands on . Some folks wake up from their drug nightmare & straighten out and get clean . Some people are beyond help. I’m sure we will hear from him again .

Kris Nelsen
Kris Nelsen
10 days ago

Thanks to the District Attorney’s Office for this excellent review of this incident and to the law enforcement involved for sober and measured response to Mr. Barlow’s actions.

Joel
Joel
10 days ago

Let’s hope Mr. Barlow gets the help he needs. And people need to use more compassion. The hateful comments that’s been posted on social media about both the Sheriff’s department and Mr. Barlow is disgusting. We’re not some big city where it’s every person for themself. We should support one another as fellow locals.

Community leaders and the Sheriff’s department should make an effort to work together.

Dean
Dean
11 days ago

Thank you to the DA’s office for a thorough investigation.

michele
michele
11 days ago

I agree with the officers reaction. That methanphetamine was found in the system of the arrested man is consistent with aggressive behavior, I am a pharmacist.
I want officers to remove aggressive men from the streets, for public safety.

Local Dude
Local Dude
11 days ago
Reply to  michele

Meth only stays in a male urinal stream for 3 days. He tested 13 days after being out of the hospital and his first or second day back? Apparently his hospital trauma wasn’t enough to prevent him from using as soon as he left the hospital. Hmmm🙄

Lydia
Lydia
10 days ago
Reply to  Local Dude

Local dude, we don’t know if the meth was ingested, smoked or taken intravenously. We don’t know if the testing was by saliva sample, urine specimen or blood specimen. All we know is, the system is broken.

Pedro
Pedro
11 days ago
Reply to  michele

Michele,

Why the appeal to authority of your pharmacy schooling? Adds nothing but a fallacy to your argument. Last I checked pharmacists don’t diagnose, or practice medicine.

I’d say aggressively rushing a person and setting your dog after them is consistent with aggressive behavior. My diagnostics would say predominantly alcohol. But does it really matter? The man needs help. He needs locked up sure, and short leash on release. But I can hope he asks for help, right?