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Police chief asks judge to consider man’s tattoos in prison sentence

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — In advocating a harsh sentence for a man who pleaded guilty to shooting one of his officers, an Alaska police chief asked a judge to simply “take a look at” Jason Barnum.

Nicknamed “Eyeball” for a tattoo that darkened the white portion of his right eye, the 39-year-old Barnum admitted to taking part in a 2012 crime spree, and pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted murder, first-degree burglary and third-degree felony in possession of a weapon.

Barnum opened fire on a pair of Anchorage police officers who were investigating a hotel in 2012 after a series of burglaries and car thefts. Barnum injured one of the officers, and the two returned fire, striking Barnum in the arm.

After weighing the circumstances, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Jack Smith sentenced Barnum to 22 years in prison at a hearing on Friday.

In addition to the eyeball tattoo, Barnum has a series of skull-like representations tattooed on his face along with a crown of thorns and other religious insignia.

In speaking before the court, Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew seemed as concerned about Barnum’s appearance as he was about his admissions of guilt, criminal history — Barnum has 14 prior convictions — and admitted heroin addiction.

“I’d like you to take a look at Mr. Barnum,” Mew told the court. “He has the right to do this to himself and to express himself. We can’t sentence him for that, but I think we can consider a guy’s attitude and his behavior.

“I think Jason Barnum decided a long time ago that his life was about being hostile to people.”

Interestingly enough, Barnum didn’t seem disagree with Mew’s sentiments.

“I’m humbled by what the chief said,” Barnum told the court. “I was out there pretty much running crazy. Everybody knows that I’m not the nicest guy. I understand that what I did was wrong. I can’t take none of it back.”

Barnum went on to place some of the blame for his actions on a heroin addiction and the state’s correctional system. After serving a two-year prison sentence for a prior conviction, Barnum said he was released with no one waiting for him, nowhere to go and no job prospects.

“I was living on the streets, and I tried to get a job, but of course my beautiful face didn’t allow me to do that,” Barnum said.

Ultimately, Smith said no matter how much heroin may have fueled his actions or the system may have failed him , the blame in this case falls on Barnum. Smith also said he is hopeful that when Barnum is eligible for parole in his mid-50s, there will be better support systems available.

“It’s going to be difficult, but hopefully it’ll be easier than the last time,” the judge said.

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