The use of deadly force was justified and lawful in a shooting incident on April 15 that wounded three Cowley County sheriff’s deputies and led to the death of an Arkansas City woman, according to a report released Thursday morning by Cowley County Attorney Larry Schwartz that details the incident and identifies the deputies involved.
In his analysis, Schwartz said the deputies were justified in using deadly force against Andrea C. Barrow, 32, to protect their lives and the lives of others. Barrow had shot and wounded the deputies during an attempt to remove her from her vehicle after being pulled over near 122nd Road and U.S. 77 Highway.
Barrow was pronounced dead at the scene. The three deputies were transported to area hospitals for treatment. Two were released the same day, and the other was released the next day. The three deputies were placed on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Schwartz’s report provided the following account of the incident:
Around 11 a.m. on April 15, Cowley County dispatch received a call about a suspicious vehicle in the 10000 block of 101st Road in rural Cowley County. The vehicle was described as a black Jeep with very dark windows, an Oklahoma tag and very low tire pressure, with the female driver possibly under the influence of drugs.
Three deputies, identified in the report as Master Deputy Cory Sunnenberg, Corporal John Van Royen and Deputy Brian Young, responded to the area to search for the vehicle. The report notes that all deputies were wearing department-issued uniforms, were driving marked vehicles and had operating body cameras, with all three cameras recording the events as they took place.
Sunnenberg made contact with the person who reported the suspicious vehicle, at their residence on 101st Road. The reporting party said he spoke briefly with Barrow when she pulled into his driveway, and that she didn’t make any sense. The man said he gave Barrow a gallon of gasoline after she said she was out, then watched her stop by a neighbor’s property, where she was confronted by the neighbor. The reporting party said his trash cans were knocked over and his mail was missing after Barrow had been in the area.
Sunnenberg was searching for the vehicle when a second 911 call came in, reporting a suspicious vehicle that matched the description from the earlier call on 122nd Road. Sunnenberg located the vehicle on 122nd Road, about one-eighth of a mile west of U.S. 77, and approached on foot with his body camera on.
The report states Sunnenberg talked to Barrow for a few minutes. During that time, he noticed a Kansas license plate with a Cowley County sticker in the vehicle, which Barrow appeared to try and hide. Sunnenberg, thinking the plate to be stolen, offered to run the number, but Barrow declined, becoming more agitated as the situation went on.
About 3 1/2 minutes into the recording, Van Royen and Young arrived at the scene. Van Royen walked to the passenger side of the Jeep and noticed a partially open pocket knife in Barrow’s lap, the report states.
After Barrow refused several requests to hand over the license plate and exit the vehicle, Sunnenberg opened the Jeep door to get her out. Barrow became increasingly agitated and put her hand in between the driver’s seat and the center console.
Sunnenberg and Van Royen asked her what she was reaching for, and told her to stop several times, while continuing to talk with Barrow and explaining why she was being arrested. After refusing to follow orders, Sunnenberg told Van Royen to deploy his taser, which Van Royen did from his position by the passenger side door. Sunnenberg then attempted to remove Barrow from the vehicle after she was hit by the taser.
As Barrow was being removed, Van Royen, still at the passenger side, saw a 9mm pistol in her hand and shouted “Gun!” multiple times, the report states. Barrow fell to the ground from the vehicle, upon which four or five shots were heard in the body cam recordings.
The report states the shots hit Sunnenberg in the groin area, Young in the left arm and Van Royen in the left index finger. Van Royen fired one round into the Jeep at Barrow while she was shooting, the report states.
The deputies all took cover, with Sunnenberg reporting that Barrow briefly leaned over to where he was hidden behind a brush pile before she returned to the Jeep. Van Royen worked his way up the road. Young took cover at the front passenger side of the jeep.
After a short pause more gunshots could be heard. The report does not say from who. Sunnenberg and Young said they thought Barrow had returned to her vehicle to reload. Young reported that, once she returned to the Jeep, Barrow began crawling over the center console toward him. Sunnenberg and Young then fired multiple rounds at the vehicle. The deputies were taken from the scene by emergency services, and Barrow was pronounced deceased at the scene.
In his analysis of the events, Schwartz said that facts support the deputies’ right to use deadly force to protect themselves and others.
Schwartz said Sunnenberg reasonably thought that the Kansas license plate in Barrow’s possession had been stolen, based on his conversation with the reporting party and the fact that Barrow was unable to explain why she had the plate and was unwilling to let him run the tag number to try and clear up the matter. Based on that information, Sunnenberg had probable cause to arrest Barrow for misdemeanor theft, Schwartz said.
The deputies deployed a taser because Barrow refused to remove her hand from between the seat and the console, where they could not see what she was doing, even after they tried to talk her into complying with orders, Schwartz said. After revealing she had a gun and shooting the deputies, Barrow continued searching for Sunnenberg before returning to her vehicle to apparently pursue Young and possibly reload.
“Under Kansas law anyone, including a law enforcement officer, would have the right to defend himself and/or others using deadly force under the facts as set forth,” Schwartz said in his analysis. “Here, each deputy was justified in using deadly force to protect his own life and the lives of the other deputies.”
In conclusion, Schwartz said, “the use of deadly force by the officers from the Cowley County Sheriff’s Office was lawful and justified.”
The three deputies involved remain on paid administrative leave. Cowley County sheriff David Falletti said Thursday that he will speak with the deputies next week to determine what steps will be taken to bring them back to work.
Court records show Barrow experienced a troubled past. She was arrested in Oklahoma about a dozen times from 2011 to 2014 on various charges, ranging from public intoxication and DUI to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in late 2014.
In 2015 she faced more serious charges and spent time at the Oklahoma Forensic Center for treatment until she was found competent. She was sentenced to five years for assault and battery and placed on probation with several conditions, including not using or possession alcohol and not using, possession or selling controlled drugs. She also was required to complete treatment, attend 12-step meetings and attend weekly intensive outpatient until released, and stay on medications.
Her most recent run-in with law enforcement before last week occurred in January when she was charged with criminal littering at 8000 Chestnut Avenue in Arkansas City, according to a criminal complaint. That case had not been resolved.