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Paul Coates

March 8, 2008 |  8:26 pm

March 8, 1958

Paul_coates A high school official who nearly died from stab wounds inflicted by a sheriff's vice officer said today that he intends to take legal action against the deputy.

William R. Barringer, 43, dean of boys and vice principal of Oakdale Union High School, revealed his intentions following a court trial in which he was accused of battery and resisting arrest.

The trial, in Citrus Municipal Court, ended in a hung jury late last night. After deliberating eight hours, the jury locked 9-3 for acquittal.

Barringer was arrested following a brawl in a Baldwin Park bar with three vice officers last Dec. 21.

He was stabbed twice in the stomach, once in the back and slashed across the face.

Deputy Heliodoro Gonzales admitted in court that he inflicted the facial and stomach wounds, but denied knifing the vice principal in the back.

Barringer reportedly did not receive adequate medical attention for his wounds until 16 hours after the incident. He also charged that as a result he is suffering from peritonitis, a serious inflammation of the stomach and intestinal walls.

The vice principal testified that he went to the Ramona Boulevard bar at approximately 12:30 in the morning of Dec. 21 with a sister-in-law to pick up his brother, Jack Barringer of 3379 N. Frazier, Baldwin Park.

His brother, whom he was visiting over the holidays with his wife and 10-month-old son, was employed there as a bartender.

According to the 6-foot, 4-inch school official's story, a fight broke out in the bar shortly before closing time.

"It was at the other end of the bar," he said. "I saw my brother step from behind the bar to break it up. Someone hit him and he went down.

"That's when I went to his aid."

Barringer explained that he knocked down the man he thought had floored his brother.

1958_0325_barringer "But it turned out to be a friend of my brother's," he said. "I apologized to the man. The fight seemed to be over and my brother was all right, so I started walking back to the table where my sister-in-law was seated.

"At that point I was jumped by two men from behind. Both were in old civilian clothes. They pushed me out the front door and another man followed them."

It was brought out in the trial that all three men were on-duty vice squad officers. Barringer's testimony that he had no knowledge that the men were sheriff's deputies was supported by several witnesses.

"Outside," Barringer continued, "I found myself battling all three of them. I knocked two of them down. One stayed down. The other got up and ran away.

"He returned immediately with a gun. I was still fighting the third man and had just noticed that my shirt was covered with blood when I heard the man with the gun shout:

" 'Cut him up some more.'

"I tried to run back into the bar then but the door was bolted. As I turned away from Gonzales, he slashed me across the face and I felt the sting of the knife in my back.

"That's when I collapsed to the ground."

Deputy Gonzales' story in court conflicted  with that of Barringer.

He stated that Barringer, followed by several other men, charged him.

He also testified that the weapon he used was a small penknife. The knife was not confiscated by Baldwin Park police who came to the scene, and Gonzales told the court that he lost the weapon three weeks later in some sand dunes.

Following the brawl, Barringer was handcuffed and taken to El Monte Receiving Hospital, where--according to witnesses--he was knocked from his wheelchair by a vice officer.

The witnesses also reported that another vice officer came in and showed Barringer's watch (which had fallen off in the scuffle) to the injured man and told him:

"You'll never see this again, you S.O.B."

Barringer stated that the watch--the band of which was a gift from students of Oakdale High--has not yet been returned.

Later, the vice principal was transferred to the prison ward of County General Hospital. However, according to his attorney, William A. Kurlander, he received no medical attention until 5:30 p.m.

"I arrived there around noon and found him lying unattended on a cot in the hallway," he said. "I got him out of the prison ward as fast as I could and into surgery.

"If he hadn't had the money for an attorney I'm afraid he might have died before he received any attention. The woulds were very serious."

Throughout the case, the Central California community of Oakdale has stood behind its school official.

Donald R. Lund, principal of the high school there, said:

"Barringer has been a wonderful credit to our school and community and I'll back him up 100%."

Frank Asbill, retired Los Angeles Police Department officer now serving on the Oakdale Board of Education, added:

"I'm shocked to hear that a vice officer would use a knife on a suspect. Of course we're behind Barringer but no matter who it was a police officer should never use a knife to enforce the law."

Unless the misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest is dropped, a retrial will be held later this month.

[Note that the original Times story bears little resemblance to Coates' column. Unfortunately, it's emerging as something of a trend as this is about the third time I can recall that Coates' account differs drastically from what was reported. He tends to leave out essential facts when interviewing victims, which I find extremely troubling. All charges were dropped, according to a March 25, 1958, story in The Times--lrh].