The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

July 15, 2013

Could 2004 fatal shooting of Athens Police officers have been prevented?

Mary Barksdale still lives in the one-story home on Horton Street where her son gunned down two Athens Police officers one afternoon in 2004.

The shooting stunned the community and forever changed the lives of those who knew Officer Tony Mims and Sgt. Larry Russell.

Like others, 69-year-old Mary often wonders what could have been done to prevent the tragedy. She believes better mental health resources for her son, and others with mental illness, could have helped.

That day in Athens

Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 24, Mary’s 29-year-old son Farron was living in an apartment in Decatur owned by the mental health home, though he sometimes stayed with his mother in Athens and was doing so at the time of the shooting.

On the afternoon of Jan. 2, 2004, Farron had called police twice that day asking for either the FBI or the police to be sent to his mother’s home. Farron was in the throws of a psychotic event, was not taking his anti-psychotic medication and had been drinking vodka at the time, officials said.

After calling police, he lay in wait near a window inside his mother’s home with an assault rifle he bought in Huntsville a few days before.

Mary, who was at work when the nightmare transpired, said her son “thought he was battling aliens.”

Earlier, Farron had torn cable from the home to prevent police, the government, gangsters and aliens from using the wires and TV to tap into his brain, Mary said.

When Officer Mims arrived at the Barksdale home to assist, Farron fired multiple rounds through the windshield of Mims’ cruiser, piercing his vest and striking him in the chest, neck and head. The officer was found dead in his cruiser, with his seat belt still fastened and his cruiser not yet in park. Within a minute, Sgt. Russell, 42, arrived, stepped from his vehicle and was also ambushed. He died later at Huntsville Hospital.

“This was never reported, but Farron called back 911 and said ‘don’t send any more officers because I can’t tell the difference between the real and the fakes,’” Mary said.

Farron was able to pass a background check and buy the rifle and ammunition because the federal database did not list his prior mental commitments and because Farron lied about his illness on the form provided by the gun dealer.

Mary thought the gun was at his father's house.

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