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The Town Talk

June 11, 2007: Documents give details about fight

By Abbey Brown • • July 17, 2009

JENA-- "Free the Jena Six" has become a battle cry heard not only in the small community of Jena but also across the country.


But what about the "Jena One?" -- the 17-year-old boy who was knocked unconscious, hit, kicked and stomped on by a group of students, according to court documents?

That's a question Justin Barker's parents ask every day.

"All you hear is, 'Justice for the Jena Six,'" David Barker said of his son's case. "I wouldn't mind justice for the one. It doesn't matter the race -- what matters is what happened to our son."

Three of the six Jena High School students charged in Justin Barker's beating -- coined the Jena Six -- are scheduled to be tried on June 25 on charges of attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder in connection with the fight, which happened Dec. 4 just outside the school's gym.

It was the first day students had returned to classes after a fire gutted the school's main academic building.

The parents of the Jena Six said they are hoping justice comes soon for their sons -- with all charges against them being dropped.

But the Barker family doesn't know in what form justice will come for them.

"There's no good answer to the question of what we want to happen," said Kelli Barker, Justin's mother.

"I just wish this whole thing would have never happened."

David Barker said if the boys are acquitted, they may think, "I got away with this once, why couldn't I get away with it again?"

Theodore McCoy, the father of one of those accused, Theodore Shaw, said that even if his son and the other boys had done what they are accused of doing, the charges are still unfair.

"I would like for (District Attorney Reed Walters) to drop those silly charges," he said. "If anything, this was simple battery. If six people really had beat someone up and jumped on him, he would have been hurt worse -- broken bones, teeth knocked out. This isn't justice."

Repeated attempts over the past several weeks to contact Walters seeking comment, including messages left at his office, have been unsuccessful.

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Mychal Bell, Shaw and Robert Bailey Jr. are scheduled to go before 28th Judicial District Court Judge J.P. Mauffray Jr. later this month. Carwin Jones and Bryant Purvis haven't yet been arraigned. Shaw and Bell remain in the LaSalle Parish Jail in lieu of $90,000 bond each.

Court documents on the sixth student aren't available because his case is being handled in the juvenile system.

What happened?

Investigators from the LaSalle Parish Sheriff's Office have gathered statements from more than 40 people -- a number of them students -- who told investigators they saw everything that happened. Many of these statements were included in court documents.

"When I heard a black boy say something to Justin, I turned my head and I saw somebody hit Justin," one student wrote in a statement. "He fell in between the gym door and the concrete barricade. I saw Robert Bailey kneel down and punch Justin in the head. ... Then Carwin Jones kicked him in the head. ... Theo Shaw tried to kick him so I pushed Theo Shaw down. I also saw Mychal Bell standing over him."

Phrases like "stomped him badly," "stepped on his face," "knocked out cold on the ground," and "slammed his head on the concrete beam" were used by the students in their statements.

Robert Bailey said this past week that he and the other boys weren't around when the fight happened and that the teachers and principal were making students say what they wrote in statements.

Repeated calls to Jena High School Principal Glen Joiner went unreturned.

"It was a rowdy day at school because of what had happened over the weekend," Bailey said of earlier fights at the Fair Barn and Gotta Go convenience store. "The fight (with Justin) happened so quick. But those of us arrested weren't even around. Once the fight broke out, we all ran to see what happened, but I wasn't around when the fight happened."

On Dec. 1, Bailey said he was jumped by six to seven white men at the Fair Barn and that only one was arrested and charged with simple battery.

Two days later, he and friends ran into one of the men involved in the fight at the Gotta Go and the man pulled out a shotgun, Bailey said. Bailey said he wrestled the gun away, but was charged with aggravated battery and theft.

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That is injustice and racism, Bailey said.

Last week Jones said that when he went to school on Dec. 4, he could tell something was going to happen, it just felt that way, he said.

He was sitting in the boys gym after lunch, he said, and when everyone left to go back to class, he was in front of Justin and didn't know what had happened until he "heard the first lick."

"I wasn't involved," he said. "He got hit once, fell to the ground, and that was the end. Everyone just ran up when someone yelled fight, and it seemed like he was getting kicked."

Both Jones and Bailey said they did not see who hit Justin Barker.

Justin Barker was taken by ambulance to LaSalle General Hospital's emergency room, arriving at 12:25 p.m., according to court documents. A report from the ambulance company stated Barker "denies any pain other than his eye."

Once in the emergency room, Barker told medical personnel that he had been "jumped by 15 guys" and was unsure of what he had been hit with, according to the emergency physician's record in the court file. The record noted an injury to Barker's right eye requiring follow-up medical attention and injuries to his face, ears and hand.

A Computed Tomography scan of Barker's brain showed no abnormalities, but there were reports of him losing consciousness during the attack, according to hospital records.

Barker was discharged about 2˝ hours after being admitted to the ER. Later that night, he attended a ring ceremony at the school, where he was presented his class ring by his parents, something Kelli Barker said her son really wanted to be a part of, even though he was still in pain.

"All that keeps being said is that he was just in the hospital for a little bit and not really hurt," Kelli Barker said of Justin. "I thank God he wasn't hurt more than he was. But we have medical bills to show that he really was hurt."

According to court documents, the initial trip to the emergency room cost $5,467.

'Issue of race'

Marcus Jones, Bell's father, said the boys are being treated unfairly because of the color of their skin.

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All of those accused in the fight are black, and the victim is white.

"The role my son played in this wasn't attempted murder or conspiracy to commit murder," he said. "The charges the DA put on these kids are ridiculous. They are not guilty of no second-degree attempted murder or conspiracy to commit second-degree murder.

"If someone planned to kill someone, they would have done it in the dark, not in front of hundreds of kids at lunchtime," Marcus Jones said. "I just don't know what to expect ..."

Marcus Jones said his son is having a hard time dealing with life in jail. Each day, more and more letters from college football recruiters are piling up.

"Those letters are really killing him," he said of Bell. "He realizes now that jail isn't a place for nobody, especially if you have a promising future."

Kelli Barker said she and her family are not making this an issue of race. The most important thing for the Barkers, she said, is that their son is doing OK.

"One more kick," she said, "and this could have all turned out differently. He could have been killed.

"It has been tough for Justin, but he's a strong kid. All he wants to know is why? He wasn't involved in the fights over that weekend or the stuff at the school. Why him?"