SALT LAKE CITY (INPS | GIN) – A near-fatal encounter between a Kenyan-born youth and police in Salt Lake City, Utah, prompted an angry reaction from bystanders who challenged the official version of the incident given by police.
Seventeen-year-old Abdi Mohammed reportedly was in an altercation with other youths on Saturday night, February 27, and had picked up a broomstick as police arrived. In seconds, according to witnesses, police started firing shots at the teen without giving him a chance to surrender.
At a press briefing shortly after the incident, Salt Lake City Police Department confirmed that the shooting happened and that the scene was chaotic, necessitating the deployment of over a hundred police officers.
“He wasn’t even swinging at anybody and didn’t know that the cops were behind him. He barely turned around before they shot him,” protested Selam Mohammad, who was with his friend at the time of the shooting. He confirmed that his friend is from Kenya.
“The police said, ‘Drop it’, once, then they shot him four times,” Selam said. He and friends were trying to break up a fight before the police arrived. “But the police ran in on foot and had pulled their guns out already.”
The shooting is under investigation, police said, and the investigation’s results will be turned over to the local district attorney to determine if any criminal charges should be filed. Both officers were wearing body cameras at the time of the shooting.
In a statement released on February 28 regarding the shooting, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said, “The use of force by law enforcement against the public can tear at the delicate balance of trust between both sides, and must be taken extremely seriously.”
The shooting and ensuing protests “create a number of unanswered questions in the short term,” but she added that she had “complete confidence” in the Unified Police Department to lead the investigation and make an “ultimate decision” regarding the incident.
This was the third “significant use of force incident” in the Salt Lake City police department in the past month. The mayor said it was an issue she and the police chief were reviewing and discussing.
Mohamed, who reportedly lives with his girlfriend Becca Monson and their son, moved to Utah from Kenya 10 years ago, according to family and friends. Monson described Mohamed as a “caring, good, loving boyfriend [and] father”.
“I just want to see him and make sure he knows that he is loved and there are people out here that care about him and there are people that want to see him do good,” he said. [International Press Syndicate – 29 February 2016]