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No. Ogden woman files lawsuit against police for not protecting her

(Ravell Call, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Savannah Fuchs said the warning signs were there but North Ogden police kept assuring her that she would be OK.

City officials, however, say Fuchs was given options on how to deal with her neighbor before he broke into her home in an attempt to kill her, but she refused to act on them.

Early on the morning of April 1, 2014, Todd Alan Barber, 54, entered Fuchs' North Ogden townhouse, went to her bedroom where Fuchs was sleeping and turned on the light.

"And there he was with a gun, bags and duct tape, and he had zip ties and he came in to rape me and kill me and my son. And I survived. There were so many miracles," Fuchs said Wednesday.

After holding Fuchs hostage, at times firing his gun at her and pistol whipping her head and face to the point that she later required 60 staples and 50 stitches, Barber eventually called 911 himself requesting an ambulance and police. When officers arrived, Barber shot himself in the head inside Fuchs' house.

On Wednesday, Fuchs and her attorney, Robert Sykes, announced they have filed a civil lawsuit against the city of North Ogden and at least three police officers for failing to protect her.

"This never would have happened had the police done their duty, had the police done what they should have done," Sykes said.

Sykes said while police are not generally liable for criminal conduct, what makes this case different is the "special relationship" of trust that had been developed between his client and officers.


This never would have happened had the police done their duty, had the police done what they should have done.

–Robert Sykes, attorney


But a frustrated Brent Taylor, mayor of North Ogden, responded Wednesday that his police department did nothing wrong and said his city is being "dragged through the mud."

"It's absolutely outrageous that Mr. Sykes and his client think that the citizens of North Ogden owe her a large cash payout for a terrible tragedy committed by an evil man. That's what frustrates me," he said.

Fuchs and Barber lived in adjoining townhouses, sharing a common wall that divides the two units. For nearly a year, she said, Barber harassed her. The majority of his harassment centered around his Christian beliefs. Fuchs is Jewish.

Sykes said Barber would write Biblical passages or Christian messages in chalk on her front porch. He used a ladder one time to put a Christian fish on Fuchs' second story bedroom window, Sykes said, in addition to using a key to scratch a Christian fish onto her car. He also gave Fuchs and her 6-year-old son gifts.

According to a police report filed after Barber's suicide, officers noted that the messages written on her porch were "nothing threatening, just odd." One of the messages stated, "Pray for forgiveness," the report states.

A police report filed in April of 2013 indicated that Fuchs caught Barber "looking into her window at weird times of the day and night." She also told police she was "afraid of Todd" and wanted him to "leave her alone."

Fuchs called police again on Jan. 12, 2014, to report Barber was harassing her and that it was "an ongoing problem." According to the police report, Fuchs said she had called police six times regarding Barber. Police refuted that claim, documenting only three calls.

Savannah Fuchs is photographed Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. (Photo: provided by Robert B. Sykes)
Savannah Fuchs is photographed Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. (Photo: provided by Robert B. Sykes)

On Wednesday, Fuchs said every time she called police, they spoke with Barber and then assured her everything would be OK.

"They would come over and they would come into my house and they would sit down and we would talk and I would just kind of explain I didn't feel safe. And they would go next door and talk with him. And then they would come back and reassure me and let me know everything would be OK," she said. "They said they couldn't help me because he didn't have a criminal record."

But Sykes said what investigators either failed to research or didn't properly look up was that Barber was convicted in Georgia in 1990 of possession of a firearm during a crime.

"(Police) should have done their homework and found out about his record. That changes the whole game here," he said.

Even if police couldn't put Barber in jail for trespassing or harassment, Sykes said they shouldn't have kept "reassuring" her.

"They should not have reassured her that she was safe. That reassurance was negligent. It was improper, especially if they hadn't done their homework to find out how much of a risk he was. You don't go and reassure somebody about another person's intent if you haven't done your homework to find out," he said.

Instead of reassuring her, Sykes said police should have warned her.

"Say, 'We can't arrest this guy,' though I think they could have because of the repeated complaints. … Then you tell her, 'You might be at risk here. We don't know. We can't arrest him with what we have so far, but you might be at risk. You need to take steps to protect yourself,'" he said.

The problem came to a head after Fuchs said she complained about Barber to her landlord and her landlord then told him he had to move out. The day of his eviction was April 1, the day he broke into her townhouse.

"So he plotted my murder," she said.


So [Todd Alan Barber] plotted my murder.

–Savannah Fuchs


Fuchs said she was also in the process of trying to find a new place to live when the confrontation occurred.

Taylor, however, said Sykes' portrayal of events is "certainly not a complete picture in any way shape or form or what happened.

"I've reviewed the documents extensively, personally, that pertained to the case. And I feel our officers acted very responsibly, very professionally," he said.

One of the police reports says that an officer "told Savannah she could get a protective order against Todd if she felt her or her son's safety was at risk."

Fuchs said Wednesday she never got a protective order because she "was not sure it would have helped" because of how close they lived to each other.

"They did present other options to her which she chose not to pursue," the mayor said. "Looking back, we could be critical of everyone's actions."

Taylor said what happened was a tragedy and his heart goes out to all the victims. But ultimately what happened was that "an evil person chose to do an evil crime" and was not the result of inaction by his police department. Because of that, Taylor said his city will not seek any type of out-of-court settlement.

Contributing: Shara Park

Photos

Pat Reavy

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