Utah Department of Public Safety

Highway Patrol - Shoot-out at Echo

In 1951, a Special Session of the legislature ordered the Utah Highway Patrol to open truck weighing stations throughout Utah. No additional funding had been provided by the Special Session, only additional responsibilities. As a result, field personnel were required to work one day a week at these Ports of Entry. In April 1952, the Echo Port of Entry was opened.

Mark L. Birch joined the UHP in July 1951, with field duties in Weber County. On June 7, 1952, Patrolman Birch was assigned to work at the Echo Port of Entry. Patrolman Birch was to replace Trooper Ted London. Earlier that same day, two men had failed to pay for a meal at the Echo Cafe, Coalville, Utah. The owner, Bert Cattelan, had driven to the Echo Port of Entry after an employee had spotted the two men at the edge of town. Trooper London wrote a note for Patrolman Birch, locked the Port and attempted to locate the two thieves. The cafe owner, Mr. Cattelan, also left in his personal vehicle.

Patrolman Birch arrived at the Port and found Trooper London’s message. A few minutes later, Mr. Cattelan returned to the Port and told Patrolman Birch that he had found the two suspects. Patrolman Birch locked the Port and accompanied by Mr. Cattelan, went to look for the suspects. They located both suspects at the junction of U. S. 30S and U. S. 189, about four miles north of Coalville.

Patrolman Birch exited his vehicle and ordered the pair to come to his car. Upon their approach, Patrolman Birch immediately began to frisk the younger of the two. As he completed his cursory search, Mark turned to frisk the other suspect. The older suspect immediately produced two revolvers and began to fire both weapons at point blank range at Patrolman Birch. Both weapons were .32 caliber break action revolvers. One was a five shot, the other a six shot. A total of nine shots were fired by the suspect at a distance of two or three feet.

Mark was struck twice in the right chest, knocking him to the ground. Despite excruciating pain, Mark was able to draw his issued .357 revolver and return fire. When all the shooting began, Bert Cattelan jumped from the patrol car and sought cover near the cement underpass. The pair of bandits quickly jumped into the patrol car and sped away in a hail of gunfire. Patrolman Birch successfully fired three rounds into the back window of his fleeing patrol car. One of the rounds exited the windshield directly in front of the driver’s steering wheel. Another round struck the steering wheel. The younger suspect laid on the front seat while driving to avoid the volley of gunfire.

Within minutes, John Weston, Laketown, Rich County, Utah, passed the fallen officers location. Mr. Cattelan motioned for the Weston vehicle to stop. Together they transported Patrolman Birch to the Summit County Hospital, Coalville, Utah. During this entire ordeal, Mark never lost consciousness.

Reed J. Parker, M. D., performed emergency surgery on Patrolman Birch to remove the two .32 caliber slugs and to repair the hemothorax which had caused his right lung to fill with blood. During the operation two blood transfusions were required.

Trooper London had covered the highway through Coalville and was circling back towards Echo Junction when the fleeing patrol car passed on U. S. 189. Ted recognized it was Patrolman Birch’s issued cruiser. He also saw the two civilian occupants and the bullet hole in the windshield. Turning to pursue, Trooper London saw the back window was also broken. Trooper London immediately radioed the Summit County Sheriff’s Department; however, his transmission went unanswered. Radio traffic in that area was generally only successful from Coalville south to Wanship.

Within a mile, the fleeing felons turned onto the Echo Dam. Crashing through a chain guard, the fleeing patrol car began crossing the dam. Trooper London knew the road ended at the spillway. Skidding to a stop, the felons jumped from the vehicle and began to run up an adjacent sagebrush canyon. Trooper London stopped directly behind Patrolman Birch’s vehicle and exited with his issued Winchester model 97 shotgun. Trooper London could clearly see one of the fleeing felons carrying a revolver in each hand.

Trooper London gave a verbal order for the two fleeing felons to stop. They ignored this order. Ted knew the distance was far too great for effective use of double 00 buck. Firing three rounds of buckshot over their heads failed to halt their flight. Trooper London drew his 4 inch barrel .357 magnum revolver and again ordered the suspects to stop. They continued to flee.

Trooper London then began firing at the suspect who was holding a weapon in each hand. The fifth shot found its mark. The distance was nearly 200 yards. The bullet entered the suspect’s body at mid-level and exited just below the ribs on the left side. He was killed instantly. He was still clutching the two revolvers used to feloniously assault Patrolman Birch. Further examination of the weapons revealed nine spent cartridges and one live round in each weapon.

The dead suspect was later identified at Carman John Barbaro, 23, of Long Island, New York. He had been on the run since going A.W.O.L. from the U. S. Army. He was accompanied by his younger brother, Anthony Robert Barbaro, age 18. Anthony had served three years for burglary at the New York Vocational Institution and was wanted for parole violation. He was later convicted and sent to prison for accessory after the fact, assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill.

Patrolman Mark Birch, age 27, spent six days in the hospital and six weeks off work. While recovering from his wounds, he completed his probationary period and was advanced to the rank of trooper.

[Last Update - Friday, 20-Dec-2013 11:00:40 MST]