SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah police officers were legally justified in firing more than 20 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 as he ran away from two 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.
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.
Video of the shooting has been called “disturbing and upsetting” by Mayor Erin Mendenhall, a Democrat. Demonstrators, meanwhile, have chanted Palacios-Carbajal’s name, posted fliers calling for justice and painted the street outside Gill’s office red to symbolize blood.
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. The weapon was found nearby after the shooting, authorities have said.
The two officers were put on administrative leave, standard practice for a police shooting.
Associated Press writer Sophia Eppolito contributed to this story. She is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.
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