Family of Visalia man shot by officers speaks out

April 22, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The family of a Visalia man shot to death by police this past weekend feel the shooting was unjustified. Xavier Barba, 25, died Saturday night after he was shot by two Visalia police officers.

The Visalia Police Chief says the suspect was driving through the neighborhood shooting his gun in the air. Then, when police arrived at his apartment to confront him, he aimed the gun at officers.

His family, however, paints a different picture.

Xavier Barba's family laid out flowers and candles near the site where he was shot dead by police Saturday night. Bullet holes still riddle their backyard fence. Clutching his photo, his father, Francis Barba, told Action News their family is still searching for answers surrounding his death.

Francis Barba says "We are deeply hurt. The whole family, and my wife and me -- just a total loss of injustice."

Francis Barba says his son didn't have it in his heart to hurt anyone and can't believe he would threaten officers. Francis Barba says "He was never armed. He wasn't that kind of person to be armed."

Xavier Barba's sister, Zachari Barba, says "Two weeks ago he was in a motorcycle accident. He couldn't even walk so how is that threatening?"

Visalia Police Chief Colleen Mestas describes a very different person.

Mestas says officers responded to the apartment after getting numerous calls about Xavier Barba driving down the street, speeding and firing a gun. She says when officers came to the door to question him, they heard him trying to load a weapon. When they confronted him out back behind the apartment, they came face to face with the suspect, who they say had a 45-caliber handgun in one hand and a loaded magazine in the other.

Chief Mestas says "He initially had the weapon above his head and then he began to lower it in the direction of the officers, against commands of the officers who were providing to the suspect."

Mestas says, at that point, fearing for their lives, one officer shot four rounds while the other shot three. Barba was pronounced dead a short time later.

During the investigation, police said they found several expended bullets in Barba's car and in the street, matching witness statements about him firing his gun.

Chief Colleen Mestas says, "I think the actions both of those young officers took that evening were absolutely consistent with our training police here."

Barba has one prior arrest for public intoxication. Family members say he may have been under the influence of prescription medication and alcohol at the time.

Both officers involved in the shooting are on paid administrative leave while the Tulare County Sheriff's Office investigates the incident.