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Huntsville Real-Time News
By DAVID HOLDEN, Times Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sheriff says suspect had been diagnosed with schizophrenia
ATHENS – Murder suspect Farron Barksdale has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and told investigators he had thoughts of suicide before killing two city police officers on Friday, Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely said Saturday.
Barksdale told investigators he thought about committing “suicide by cops,” by provoking police into shooting him.
“He said that he had made up his mind to shoot whoever drove into the yard,” Blakely said.
Barksdale, 28, of Decatur, is charged with capital murder in the deaths of the two Athens police officers. Investigators say Barksdale used a high-powered rifle to shoot Sgt. Larry Wayne Russell, 42, and Officer Anthony Lee Mims, 40, about 1 p.m. Friday as they responded to a 911 call from a house in the 300 block of Horton Street. The caller asked the dispatcher to send out FBI agents. When none responded, he called back and asked the dispatcher to send police officers.
Barksdale is being held in the Limestone County Jail and no bond has been set.
Murdering a police officer who is on duty is a capital crime under Alabama law. If convicted, the punishment is life in prison without parole, or execution by lethal injection.
Blakely said Barksdale has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and has admitted abusing cocaine.
Mims was the first officer to arrive at the house, according to the dispatcher, who didn’t want to give her name.
“He said, ‘I’m 10-23,’ ” she said.
The radio code indicated that Mims had arrived at the location where he had been told to go.
“After that, I heard static from his radio,” she said. “I didn’t hear anything else from him.”
Alarmed by the lack of response from Mims, the dispatcher said she told Russell to check on him. Russell, Mims’ supervisor, was only a few seconds behind acting as backup, the dispatcher said.
“It is the department’s policy in a situation where there is a call from an unknown number to send out two units,” the dispatcher said.
Russell, said, “I’m 10-23,” then there was no further response from Russell either, the dispatcher said.
About that time, a new 911 call lit up the switchboard. The call was from Marie Nave, a neighbor who heard the shooting and went to look out her back door.
“One officer had already been killed, in the car,” Nave said Saturday. “Just as I came to the back door the second one was hit. I called 911, and I didn’t look out the door any more.”
Nave said the shooter was inside the house firing through the window.
John Hopkins, a neighbor who is a security officer at Pilgrim’s Pride, thought the shots were firecrackers. He looked outside and saw the two police vehicles, an officer on the ground and Barksdale walking into the street with his hands raised.
“I asked him, ‘Where is the gun?’ and he said he had dropped it on the ground beside the officer,” he said. “He asked, ‘How do you want me?’ I told him to lie on the ground on his stomach.”
Barksdale stayed on the ground until other officers arrived.
On at least two prior occasions, Blakely said, Barksdale had been served with papers from probate court ordering mental evaluations. Barksdale admitted that he had used cocaine and he was currently on prescription medication for depression.
At a candlelight vigil on Saturday, Athens Mayor Dan Williams told the families of Mims and Russell that Athens is grateful for the sacrifice the two officers were willing to make for the cause of order and justice.
“Look around you, at all these candles,” he said. “This is your support. Yesterday was an act of senseless lawlessness, and it may happen. We are grateful that their brethren in blue are still out there willing to make that same sacrifice.”