Mobile Police Chief James Barber didn’t mince words in his first public appearance since being accused of unlawfully pulling a gun on a suspect in an active burglary, calling the entire ordeal an “unwarranted distraction.”
Barber has been increasingly visible in the past 10 days after making several press appearances related to the Mobile Police Department’s ongoing investigation into an officer-involved shooting that killed 19-year-old Michael Moore June 13.However, Barber himself became the center of an unrelated story after he assisted in the arrest and apprehension of a burglary suspect he crossed paths with at the Roger Williams public housing development earlier this week.
Kenneth Padgett was stripping materials from the refrigerators and stoves in abandoned apartments there — a crime the 63-year-old has publicly admitted to several times — when he claims Barber violated his civil rights by pulling his service weapon.
Padgett told the media he didn’t think his burglary “was that serious,” and alerted Mobile City Councilman Fred Richardson, who then forwarded the complaint to the office of Mayor Sandy Stimpson.
Not long afterward, Stimpson’s office released an official statement acknowledging the accusation — something City Council Communication Coordinator Marion Steinfels said was unusual for what is a routine occurrence between councilors and the mayor’s office.“My advice to Mr. Padgett is the next time he is caught in the process of a burglary that he contact a lawyer and not his councilman,” Barber said. “I will make no apologies for taking action on a burglary in progress in the very neighborhood that these officials choose to avoid.”
Barber did say he self-reported the accusation to Mobile’s FBI office to investigate the civil rights claim independently, but said today’s press conference would be his last time addressing the matter because the department has “work to do for the law abiding citizens of the city of Mobile.”
No one from the mayor’s office has commented on why a press release was issued about the allegation Thursday morning, but Stimpson has since released his own statement backing Barber against the “baseless” allegation.
“I have full confidence in Chief Barber and his leadership of the Mobile Police Department, and I am equally confident that he handled this matter appropriately,” Stimpson said. “We fully expect the Justice Department will concur, and we will move on from this unwarranted distraction.”
Richardson also issued a statement distancing himself from the decision to publicize the accusation, saying that he was only urging Stimpson’s office to look into the matter by “getting the body camera video of the incident.”
As was the case with the officer who shot Moore, Barber wasn’t wearing a body camera at the time Padgett was arrested on Tuesday, and the department has received criticism over both incidents.
Despite maintaining he had no intention to publicize the issue, Richardson has been on the receiving end of criticism himself, including a few subtle jabs Barber managed to work into his press conference.
“Here is a conversation that I will have with the councilman,” Barber said. “As of today, we will bury our ninth teenager in Mobile [this year] due to gun violence, and no body camera in the world will prevent that.”
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