SALT LAKE CITY — Two Salt Lake City police officers who fatally shot Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal in May were justified in using deadly force, a county district attorney announced Thursday.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said the officers, who fired 34 rounds as Palacios-Carbajal, 22, fled police on May 23, acted within the law and won’t face criminal charges, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Police arrived at the Utah Village Motel after receiving a call that a man had pointed a gun at people and had made threats, the newspaper reported. Police believed Palacios-Carbajal was the suspect and gave chase when the man fled the scene.
Capt. Richard Lewis of the Salt Lake City Police Department said officers gave multiple commands for Palacios-Carbajal to stop, show his hands and “drop the gun,” KSTU reported. One officer said that Palacios-Carbajal had a gun in his pocket and was reaching toward his waistband during the chase.
At a news conference Thursday, Gill said video from the body cameras of officers Kevin Fortuna and Officer Neil Iversen, along with nearby surveillance camera footage, played a big part in his decision. According to Gill, Palacios-Carbajal stopped to pick up a gun after dropping it on the floor three times, KSTU reported.
“I cannot ignore the fact that the urge and the desire and the need to hold onto the gun was greater than the desire to flee away from them,” Gill said. “Because he wasted precious time ... looking for that gun. If he had left it, the officers said the imminence of that threat would have been abated for them and they would not have used that force. When they confirmed that gun is there, that is when the decision is made to fire.”
Fortuna and Iversen each fired “six to eight shots,” Gill said.
Both officers have been placed on administrative leave, KUTV reported.
“We asked them pointedly, ‘Did you see the gun being oriented towards you?’” Gill said. “They said, ‘Yes, we saw it being pointed towards us, and that’s why we continued to fire to abate the threat.’”
Gill’s decision was met with dismay by Palacios-Carbajal’s family
“I am very angry with Mr. Sim Gill,” Lucy Carbajal told KSL. “This is not a correct answer, this isn’t a correct decision he has made, and we’re going to keep fighting even though my son isn’t here.”
Palacios-Carbajal’s brother agreed with his mother.
“I feel really angry. Really angry and sick to my stomach. I feel like they just get a pat on the back for what they did,” Freddie Palacios-Carbajal told KSL “And I don’t agree with any of it.”
In a statement, Salt Lake police Chief Mike Brown said he trusted the process of officer-involved shooting reviews.
“I trust our extensive training. It is second to none in the state. But more importantly, I trust our officers,” Brown said. “I trust them to operate within the bounds of the laws and according to their use-of-force training. I trust that they can make the appropriate split-second, life or death decisions -- weighing all factors and public safety -- with the brevity required of them.”