Woman who lost fiance in shooting speaks

August 4, 2009 8:57:13 PM PDT
A Kingwood man was shot and killed by police, and his fiancée says the incident never should have happened. The police officer says the man grabbed his Taser and tried to use it on him. But the fiancée, who was there when it happened, says there was no need for such forceful actions from the officer in the first place.

Supporters gathered Tuesday afternoon for a vigil at the apartments in Kingwood where the shooting happened.

After a brief prayer, a request was made for the FBI to get involved to conduct its own investigation because the fiancée of John Barnes, Karen Bennett, doesn't trust the Houston Police Department to investigate itself.

Barnes, 39, was a tow truck driver. Bennett was joined by her family as well as several tow truck drivers for a vigil on Tuesday.

Bennett is refuting statements that Officer Gardiner made to Houston police about the shooting. Officer Gardiner was off duty at the time working security at the complex when he says he saw the couple arguing. Bennett says they raised their voices, but insists Barnes never touched her and she never asked for help.

Bennett says Barnes and Officer Gardiner got into a brief scuffle and that Barnes ended up slapping the Taser out of Officer Gardiner's hands. She says her fiancé had a fear of being shot by a stun gun because he has a metal plate in his head. While there was a struggle, Bennett says when the shots were fired, Gardiner and Barnes were standing several feet away from each other.

"When he was shot, he was leaning against the car," said Bennett. "He didn't have anything in his hands. He wasn't a threat to him. He wasn't asked to get on the ground. He wasn't even given a warning. He just shot hm."

Officer Gardiner's attorney released a statement on Tuesday. It reads:

    "Mr. Barnes was extremely uncooperative, both physically and verbally, and did not respond to verbal commands. He was physically aggressive towards Officer Gardiner. He took Officer Gardiner's Taser and threatened him with it."
Both the Houston Police Department and Harris County District Attorney's Office are conducting separate investigations.

The officer involved in the deadly shooting in Kingwood was also involved in a story we did about Taser use in the Houston Police Department. Back in 2006, "In Focus" Reporter Ted Oberg found that Officer Gardiner had used his Taser in Houston more than any other officer. At the time, he used the Taser 13 times in less than two years. HPD counseled him on how to bring the number down.

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