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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2007
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Trial set in
Athens shooting

Doctors say man accused
of killing police competent

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ATHENS — A man accused of killing two Athens police officers three years ago in what authorities called an ambush-style shooting is mentally competent to stand trial, according to state doctors.

The capital murder trial of Farron Barksdale, 32, of Athens is scheduled for July 30, according to Limestone County Circuit Court records.

Barksdale's defense team has never denied he shot and killed officer Tony Mims and Sgt. Larry Russell on Jan. 2, 2004.

The defense contends Barksdale is a paranoid schizophrenic. He underwent a mental evaluation at Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility and returned to the Limestone County Jail in January.

Barksdale's attorney, Robert Tuten, said although state doctors determined Barksdale is competent and knew what he was doing, the defense experts disagree.

Tuten said that before the case goes to trial in July, he will ask Circuit Court Judge Bob Baker to hold a jury trial on competency.

"You can say it will come down to a battle of the experts," Tuten said. "It's an issue a jury will have to resolve before this goes to trial."

A grand jury indicted Barksdale on five counts of capital murder and two counts of shooting into an occupied vehicle. The five counts are two counts for killing two police officers, two counts for shooting into two police cars and one count for killing two people at the same time.

According to Sheriff's Department and police reports, the shootings occurred after Barksdale called 911 repeatedly asking for an FBI agent or officer. Those calls went to Athens police.

Athens police Capt. Marty Bruce has said Barksdale had a high-powered assault rifle he bought on Christmas Eve at a Huntsville pawnshop.

Bruce said Mims pulled up to the Horton Street home, his car parallel to the house, just before 1 p.m. Before Mims could shift into park or unbuckle his seat belt, Barksdale shot 11 rounds from inside the house through a closed window, Bruce said.

Seven bullets hit Mims. The bullets went through his bulletproof vest. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, Mims was the nation's first police officer killed on duty in 2004.

Moments later, Russell arrived and put his car into park and tried to get out, possibly to take cover, Bruce said. Two bullets hit Russell as he got out of his vehicle, making him the nation's second officer slain in 2004.

Barksdale surrendered to police without incident after the shootings.

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