- September 19, 2021
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MADISON (WKOW) — A former Madison police officer questions Governor Tony Evers’ pardon of a woman who threatened the officer’s life 26 years ago.
Evers issued a pardon in June for Kathrine Barber, 66, of Arlington, Massachusetts of the felony crimes of second degree recklessly endangering safety and fleeing an officer.
On Dec. 1, 1995, Barber led police on a high-speed chase to a gas station in Windsor and was surrounded by law enforcement personnel.
“I bought a hand gun in which I intended to kill myself,” Barber told members of the Wisconsin Pardon Advisory Board in May. “I got out of the car with the gun pointed at my head,” she said.
“I could hear officers shouting at me…they were shouting to drop the gun,” Barber said.
Retired Madison Police Officer Bill Murphy tells 27 News he confronted Barber and commanded her to drop the weapon.
“Looked me right dead in the eye and saying, ‘No,'” Murphy says.
“(She) Slowly started to bring it (handgun) forward and that’s when we all shot her,” Murphy says.
This police shooting was not deadly. Officers provided aid to Barber and she was taken by a MedFlight helicopter to hospital care.
Barber told the pardon board she’s appreciative of the law enforcement life-saving response, and does not fault the officers for responding to her threat with gunfire. But she says the outcome of the gas station standoff was traumatic.
“My life was changed forever in that instant,” she said.
In a news release from Gov. Evers announcing Barber’s pardon among dozens of pardons, the rationale for the pardon was presented.
“Kathrine Barber was 40 when she suffered a mental health crisis in which she eluded an officer, operated a firearm while intoxicated and endangered public safety with the use of a dangerous weapon,” Evers said in the statement. “26 years later Barber has developed into an activist and leader within her community.”
“I’ve had years of private therapy, many years of group therapy, A.A.,” Barber told the pardon board.
But Murphy says being threatened at gunpoint and forced to respond by shooting at a suspect are traumas he’s carried for 26 years.
“It doesn’t just go away,” Murphy says. “It’s still playing in your mind over and over and over.”
Murphy believes Barber’s felony crimes were too serious to be absolved with a pardon. “The high-speed chase, pointing a weapon at a police officer.”
“That kind of trauma stays with you,” Murphy says.
Murphy says a representative of the Governor’s Office contacted him prior to Barber receiving the pardon and he expressed his opposition to Barber’s request.
“I don’t know how I could express my remorse for this,” Barber told the pardon board.
Barber is a Canadian citizen and tells 27 News her felony convictions made travel to visit relatives impossible. Barber says it also barred her from visiting the family of her partner in Germany.
“All I want now is to live my last years in peace and quiet – with freedom to travel, and without fear of detention and deportation, a fear with which I have lived for 25 years,” Barber tells 27 News. “This is why Governor Evers’ pardon program matters so much.”
Evers recently announced a relaxation of procedures involved in the consideration of some pardon applications. The Democratic governor is on pace to grant the most pardons in a gubernatorial term in history. His predecessor, Republican Governor Scott Walker refused to consider any pardons.
During the pardon hearing, board member Jerry Hancock confirmed Barber was an intern in the Wisconsin Department of Justice at the same time as his employment there and around the time of the shooting incident. 27 News reached out to Hancock to ask whether he recused himself from participating in the board’s consideration of Barber’s case, or how he viewed her application if he was involved in advising the governor, but he’s yet to comment.
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