What Did Douglas Barton Know? When Did he know it?
With the help of forensic video analysis, we revisited the 1/10/16 garage fire at 333 Pleasant Ave., Herkimer, home to East Herkimer Fire Department Deputy Chief Douglas Barton and his wife Joyce Barton. Why? Because it just didn’t look right.
There seemed to be a tendril of smoke in the lower left of Chief Barton’s garage, just before he and his daughter left in his truck. And the same drifting across his backyard. The Bartons appear to avert their gazes from the garage as they approach it. Judge for yourself–here’s the original clip:
Was this a line of inquiry worth pursing? we asked. We’d forwarded all our videos of the fire to the Herkimer Police and Fire Departments on 1/11/16. But, it is Herkimer’s brazen Bartons. And Joyce Barton is ever in the background of Herkimer happenings. Also, the Herkimer Fire Department inspector seemed to agree with Deputy Fire Chief Barton that the cause was probably a faulty circuit breaker. (In a 1930’s garage, its electricity coming over an ancient line strung from the house. )
The fire inspector asked for copies of our video clips after he and a Herkimer police officer viewed surveillance footage on our computer. He said he didn’t know the Herkimer Fire Department’s email address. (It’s unpublished, I later learned. As is Herkimer Mayor Anthony Brindisi’s.) I sent the clips over the next day on a flash drive via a police officer, who said he’d drop them off. So much for chain of custody. But then as folks in Herkimer say with a sigh, “It’s Herkimer.”
Sensing how Herkimer would be the investigating the fire chief’s fire, we sent the above key clip from The Fire Chief’s Fire series of videos to PerpPics for preliminary analysis. PerpPics is a well-regarded video forensics firm, noted for its skills in surveillance video enhancement and clarification. It often works with law enforcement agencies. Its analyses are fully admissible as evidence.
The surveillance videos you see on our blog are compressed for transmission to our cloud hosting service. The originals are in high definition format, which can be restored to their origiinal quality, further enhanced, enlarged and forensically analyzed.
Below is the crucial frame from the clip, enhanced by PerPics. The surveillance camera is about 200 feet from the Barton’s garage. Barton and his daughter are in their driveway walking toward the garage. Could they reasonably have been expected to miss from about 15 feet what our surveillance camera saw from 200 feet?
(Steam = water. Smoke = fire. Which one was present in Barton’s garage?
farewell potential evidence
The Herkimer Post lacks the resources to complete a full video forensic analysis of the video. But maybe you do? Here’s the forensic analyst’s downloadable report and Enhancement Procedure Summary:
Written by Herkimer Post Crime Editor, author Stephen Ames Berry. Berry is a former officer of Harvard University and a veteran of the National Security Agency’s US Army Security Agency.
Republished 4.18.16 to include a photograph of now former Deputy Fire Chief Barton. The Herkimer Post regrets the omission.
Rewritten 8.29.16 to enhance narrative and include a visual motif of Herkimer Village government, and a link to a photo of the world’s most beloved German Army sergeant.
video enhancement and clarification services