SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah police officers were legally justified in firing more than 30 times and killing an armed man as he ran away, the district attorney said Thursday in a case that has become a rallying point for protesters in the state amid a national wave of dissent against police brutality.
Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, 22, was shot between 13 and 15 times as he ran away from Salt Lake City police officers who were investigating a gun-threat call and had yelled for him to drop a gun, District Attorney Sim Gill said.
Two officers, Neil Iversen and Kevin Fortuna, fired their weapons at Palacios-Carbajal when they confirmed he had a gun in his possession, Gill said. The weapon could be seen on top of Palacios-Carbajal’s body after the shooting, according to body camera footage Gill presented Thursday.
Gill offered condolences to the family shortly before he announced the determination.
Gill, a Democrat, said police saw Palacios-Carbajal had a gun, and police are generally considered legally justified in using deadly force if they reasonably believe their lives or the lives of others are in danger.
“We decline to file criminal charges against either officer for his use of deadly force,” Gill said.
Demonstrators have chanted Palacios-Carbajal’s name, posted fliers calling for justice and painted the street outside Gill’s office red to symbolize blood. Mayor Erin Mendenhall previously called video of the shooting “disturbing and upsetting,” though the Democrat said Thursday the full evidence showed the officers followed their training and state law.
Still, she acknowledged the calls for reform: “I know that for some, today’s decision does not feel like justice.”
Palacios-Carbajal’s family has called for the officers involved to be criminally charged, saying he was afraid and trying to get away.
Attorneys for the family are expected to address the findings later Thursday.
Palacios-Carbajal died shortly after midnight on May 23, after someone called police to report an apparent armed robbery, Gill said. Officers saw Palacios-Carbajal near the Utah Village Motel and chased him, yelling for him to stop and drop the weapon, Gill said.
Video footage shows Palacios-Carbajal trip and fall several times before getting up and continuing to run, picking up what officers identified as a gun from the ground before two officers begin shooting, Gill said.
“The desire to retrieve the gun was greater than the desire to run away,” he said.
Iversen and Fortuna were put on administrative leave, standard practice for a police shooting.