William Barnes Profile: This Man Shot a Cop

In a case that may change how we think of justice, the D.A. wants him to go to jail for it. Again

He is scheduled for trial in May, and the case promises to be remarkable. Double jeopardy doesn’t apply, because while Barnes served two decades for the initial crime, prosecutors say that crime has since evolved into something new, and worse. At a pretrial hearing, Judge Bradley Moss noted that he could find no other example of a murder charge brought so long after the initial act.

But there is, it turns out, one example for comparison. Its similarities are astonishing, but its final difference is perhaps more incredible:

One night in October 1960, two young brothers in Spanish Harlem shot a rival gang member twice, paralyzing him for life. One brother served five years, the other a year and a half. This past March, the victim, William Jenkins, died at age 66 due to infections caused by the injury, according to the New York medical examiner. One of the shooters had died in the intervening years, and the district attorney decided not to press charges against the remaining brother: He had already served time, too many years ago. The victim’s family, moreover, had forgiven the offenders.

After police arrested Barnes for the final time, cameras followed as he climbed out of the detectives’ car, wearing handcuffs. At Michael Friel’s house, the children stared at the television. One of them called out, “Hey! Is that Pop-Pop?”

Michael entered the room to see, sure enough, his father making the perpetrator’s shuffling walk. They had known each other as free men for two weeks.

And Barnes, whose thin white hair blew in the wind, looked into the camera. He held out his shackled hands in a gesture that answers its own question, and maybe that of society at large.

What can I do? he seemed to say.

My hands are tied.

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  • Joe

    William Barnes committed a horiific crime but he DID NOT kill officer Barclay. The Phila. DA’s office is only trying to make a name for itself by having Mr. Barnes arrested for murder. I find it impossible for a bullet 41 years after the fact to be a cause of death when the officer was in numerous accidents andas denied benefits from the city and may have been ABUSED at the nursing home he was in at the time. That is who should be investigated not William Barnes. Tax payers you should be in an uproar over this. With God on William’s side hopefully he will be a free man this spring.

  • Helethan

    This is unbelievable

  • Helethan

    I hope this man is a free man this spring

  • Joe

    UNBELIVEABLE, i just read that 2 people were shot by Phila. police officers one unarmed the other an innocent bystander and died from their injuries. DA Lynn Abraham chose not to file charges against the officers but does in the case of Mr. Barnes. I guess if Mr. Barnes shot John Doe he wouldn’t have been charged. Shoot a cop who ends up dying 41 years later you get arrested a cop shoots a citizen within months of dying no charges. Lynn Abraham you were so WRONG for what you did to Mr. Barnes.

  • Diane

    Mr Barnes did not murder Mr Barclay, he went on to live for 41 more years. My Uncle should not be in prison as we speak. Lynn Abraham should be ashamed of herself wasting tax dollars money on a case that will not have a leg to stand on during trial. We, the Barnes family know that justice will prevail, but we will never get back the time that our Uncle spent in prison during his elder years. Lets just hope and pray that he lives for another 25 years!!

  • Jim

    You did a great job of impartial reporting on a difficult subject. Thank you.

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