Assault at Crescent Junction
On June 2, 1976, Trooper Phil Barney was living at Moab, Utah. He came to work that Wednesday and traveled northbound to Crescent Junction. He was soon stopped by a construction foreman and was advised of speeding vehicles through a construction zone on I-70. Phil proceeded to that location. The first vehicle he clocked was traveling 76 mph in a 40 mph zone. He pursued and stopped this vehicle, a 1976 Dodge with California plate 712 PKM.
On his approach to the vehicle he observed a large, black male driver and a younger white male passenger. He also saw a rolled up sleeping bag on the back seat. Protruding from the center of the sleeping bag was a “lid” of marijuana. The driver stated he did not have his license with him. He also stated the vehicle was registered to his girlfriend in California.
Trooper Barney reached through the window and seized the marijuana. He then ordered both occupants out of the vehicle and advised them of their rights. A search of the vehicle revealed a Safeway shopping bag containing 20 lids of marijuana. The driver admitted the marijuana was his.
At that point, Trooper Barney asked the Moab dispatcher to contact the county attorney to see if he would prosecute for felony possession, with intent to distribute the 21 lids of marijuana. The county attorney agreed to prosecute.
Trooper Barney requested back-up and advised dispatch that he would be out making a custodial arrest on the two suspects. He ordered the driver and passenger to lean against the front of the vehicle, a common arrest technique used during the 1970s. The driver stood 6’ 5″ tall and weighed over 230 pounds. As Trooper Barney attempted to handcuff the suspect, the suspect turned and hit Phil in the face with a clenched fist. The blow nearly knocked him unconscious. Phil instinctively lowered his head in a defensive position and raised his left hand, placing it in the face of the suspect. The suspect reacted by striking him several times on the top of the head and biting the middle finger of Barney’s left hand.
The assailant then attempted to retrieve Trooper Barney’s weapon. Phil used his right hand to keep the weapon in the holster. The assailant continued to bite on Phil’s finger and to strike him with his right fist. The suspect then attempted to knee Trooper Barney in the groin. Due to Phil’s defensive position, the suspect’s knee missed his groin and struck him in the chest. At this point Barney lost consciousness temporarily.
When Trooper Barney regained consciousness he was on his knees. He had instinctively drawn his duty weapon, a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum, and was holding it in his right hand. The suspect had both hands on the weapon and the barrel was pointed at Barney’s chest. Phil hit the barrel of the weapon, knocking it sideways. The weapon instantly discharged, striking the suspect in the torso, just above the navel.
The suspect fell, pulling Trooper Barney to the ground. The suspect was still clutching the weapon with both hands. Trooper Barney was then able to wrench the weapon from the suspect’s grip.
Trooper Barney then shifted his attention to the passenger. When his vision cleared, he saw the passenger. He pointed his duty weapon at the passenger and ordered him to get down. He was standing beside the vehicle and had made no attempt to intervene in the fight. The passenger then yelled, “I’m a hitchhiker, and he was crazy. I’m not going to do anything.”
Trooper Barney’s left hand was bleeding and swollen. His middle finger had several teeth marks and a large chunk of skin missing. His ring finger had powder burns and was grazed by the bullet passing from the barrel of his duty weapon. His right eye was blackened, his face was swollen and bruised, and his upper lip was cut and bleeding. He had also sustained several separated ribs. Trooper Barney knew he had come extremely close to death. He called for an ambulance from Moab. The suspect died several hours later at the hospital.
The suspect was later identified as Tony Ray Richardson from Pomona, California. He had three active warrants totaling $36,500 for two counts of armed robbery, burglary, evading and petty theft. The passenger was found to be an unknowing hitchhiker.
During his entire career, Trooper Phil Barney excelled at criminal interdiction. He won the Golden Beehive Award for the most recovered stolen vehicles on several occassions. Phil retired from the Utah Highway Patrol on January 15, 1988. He then joined the Sevier County Sheriff’s Department where he currently serves as a Deputy Sheriff.