A Clark County District Court jury has convicted a man who fired his gun to scare away alleged car prowlers, then later told reporters that he was just following the vice president’s suggestion.
Jeffrey C. Barton, 53, made international news when he told journalists: “I did what Joe Biden told me to do. I went outside and fired my shotgun in the air.”
He did this at about 3 a.m. on July 15, 2013, when he was alerted by a neighbor to people rifling through his vehicles, parked in his driveway in the 5800 block of Northeast 124th Street. Barton chased the alleged prowlers, punched one of them in the face and fired three rounds from his shotgun, according to accounts of the event.
Barton’s statement to reporters was a reference to the vice president’s answer to a question earlier that same year about home defense. Biden responded that Americans don’t need to own semiautomatic weapons, because a couple blasts from a shotgun will scare off intruders.
Barton was originally charged with illegally discharging a firearm, a misdemeanor, but prosecutors dismissed the weapons charge in August and instead charged Barton with obstructing a police officer.
That is the charge that a six-member jury considered during a two-day trial and deliberated about for about two hours before finding Barton guilty.
During the trial, deputy prosecutor Greg Harvey said that when sheriff’s deputies arrived to the reports of shots fired, Barton was angry and didn’t listen to police commands. Barton’s actions, he said, interfered with their ability to do their jobs.
Barton’s attorney, Jesse Corkern, denied Barton was aggressive toward officers. He said that when Barton saw that police had arrived to a 911 call initiated by his family, he received “not a polite greeting from law enforcement.”
Deputies testified that the report of shots fired created a high-risk situation. When they arrived, they found several vehicles and people inside and outside the vehicles and commanded everyone to show their hands.
Deputy Tom Yoder testified that Barton’s actions were those of “passive resistance.”
“He wouldn’t sit on the ground, and he was reaching behind his back,” Yoder said during the trial.
Yoder and Deputy Rob Ternus testified that they didn’t know if Barton was armed, and so the two worked to detain Barton for officer safety.
“Everyone complied, everyone was doing what they were supposed to be doing — except for Mr. Barton,” Ternus said. “It slowed the whole thing down.”
After the verdict, Barton said that the incident has led to his decision to leave his home, where he has resided since 1990.
“You folks have a good time in Clark County because once all that’s said and done, I’m out of here,” he said. “That’s what you get for exercising my Second Amendment rights and protecting my family.”
Heather Barton, Jeffrey Barton’s wife, said: “I hope one of the jurors never have to go through the decision making we went through that night.”
Barton is scheduled to be sentenced on March 24. The maximum sentence for the misdemeanor is $5,000 and/or up to 364 days in jail.
Emily Gillespie: 360-735-4522; twitter.com/col_cops; firstname.lastname@example.org