Jailed dressage trainer Michael Barisone, charged with attempted murder of a former student, has filed a lawsuit against 11 police officers and the municipality they work for, claiming they did nothing to protect him from escalating threats made at his New Jersey farm by the woman he is accused of shooting.
The civil complaint cites Barisone’s anxiety stemming from the threats, and the “mounting psychological distress and likely psychiatric breakdown” he suffered when police failed to intervene after a series of 911 calls.
Barisone pleaded not guilty after being indicted on two counts of attempted murder and two counts of possessing a weapon for an unlawful purpose in connection with the August 2019 shooting of the student, Lauren Kanarek, who was critically wounded by two bullets to the chest after a scuffle with the trainer at the facility in the Long Valley section of Washington Township. Barisone is being held without bail and is due back in court next month.
In 2018, Kanarek became a student of Barisone, who was the alternate on the 2008 U.S. Olympic dressage team and coached a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic bronze medal team. Kanarek, who filed a suit against Barisone, lived at his farm with her fiancé, Robert Goodwin, and boarded her horse at the facility.
However, according to the lawsuit filed by attorney Christopher Deininger, Barisone was not aware until June 21, 2019 that Kanarek had “a history of domestic conflict” and was “a former heroin addict with a lengthy criminal history, including criminal assault.”
Bruce Nagel, the attorney for Kanarek, called the accusations against his client included in the lawsuit “complete and total rubbish.” He added “The lawsuit is sheer nonsense. Michael Barisone shot my client at pointblank range attempting to kill her and he should be locked up for the rest of his life.”
The complaint alleged that due to suffering abuse as a child, Barisone was “vulnerable and susceptible to sustaining injury from harassment, stalking, verbal assault, and threats of violence from persons like Kanarek and/or Goodwin” and was being psychologically assaulted and victimized.
A board-certified psychiatrist stated Barisone was mentally incompetent at the time of the incident, having suffered from mental disease that “rendered Barisone to be insane,” according to the civil complaint, in which Barisone contended had no recollection of the shooting.
Citing “an upward spiral of harassment and stalking” of Barisone and his girlfriend, Mary Haskins Gray, and her children, Barisone alleges in the complaint that the police officers who responded on July 31, 2019 to his 911 call about threats and harassment by Kanarek and Goodwin “intentionally disregarded and/or recklessly disregarded” the trainer’s mental state.
Barisone contended that police who responded to another 911 call the following day failed to include in their report that he told them he feared for his life. Their report falsely characterized the situation as a “private dispute,” according to the lawsuit.
Barisone again called 911 and reported that he had been “assaulted verbally by Kanarek and/or Goodwin” and that he and others at the farm had been subjected to what he characterized as other “criminal behaviors,” according to the complaint. The two policemen who responded interviewed Kanarek and Goodwin before speaking with Barisone, which the lawsuit contends is in violation of standard police protocol.
Barisone also alleges that the police disregarded information he gave them that Kanarek “was believed to have possession of, and/or current access to, a loaded firearm” and “had a history of threatening to discharge and/or actually discharging her loaded firearm at people and property.”
The complaint alleges Kanarek made “extensive use of the Internet and/or social media to make veiled and direct threats of injury, mayhem, violence, and criminal acts.” Thousands of pages of discovery material were mentioned during a hearing in the State’s criminal case against Barisone last year.
Barisone alleges that after a fourth 911 call, he requested to speak with a supervisor if the officers were not going to do anything, but his request was denied.
According to Barisone’s civil complaint, on Aug. 5, he drove to the police department and asked to talk to the police chief, but was denied access. Police Chief Jeffrey Almer said he had been advised by legal counsel not to comment on the lawsuit.
Barisone alleges that officers confronted him in the lobby of the police station and would not let him speak to anyone about his situation, although he was “visibly shaking, visibly agitated, visibly in fear, visibly distressed, and visibly evidencing multiple signs of emotional/psychological/psychiatric distress.”
According to Barisone’s lawsuit, on Aug. 6, a group of township officials drove to his farm after Kanarek and Goodwin contacted them about construction code violations, which Barisone contended was part of Kanarek’s harassment of him. The lawsuit characterized the township’s response as “extreme intervention in response to Kanarek’s complaint.”
The shooting occurred the next day.
Citing damage to his reputation in the community and his professional reputation, among other things, Barisone is seeking compensatory damages for loss of business income and for psychological distress, humiliation, mental and emotional distress and psychiatric injury.