SALT LAKE CITY — Hours after the top prosecutor in Salt Lake County said a deadly police shooting was justified under state law, the family of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal said it planned to file a civil lawsuit.
District Attorney Sim Gill’s decision
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill ruled that the police shooting of Palacios-Carbajal was a justified use of deadly force according to Utah law.
Palacios-Carbajal, 22, died on May 23 after he was shot by Salt Lake City Police responding to a report of someone making “threats with a weapon” near the Utah Village Motel at 271 W 900 S in Salt Lake City.
At a press conference on Thursday, Gill revealed that his investigation found that two Salt Lake City police officers believed that, after a chase, the suspect, Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, intended to fire a gun toward the police officers who were chasing him.
Gill noted, specifically, that the officers’ belief that Palacios-Carbajal intended to shoot them was reinforced by the suspect falling three separate times, and picking up his weapon, each time.
Gill says that both officers, upon perceiving a threat to their lives, fired their weapons at Palacios-Carbajal. Gill says that each of the officers initially fired from 6 to 8 times toward Palacios-Carbajal.
The family responds to the police shooting
An attorney for the Palacios-Carbajal family stood before reporters, alongside family members, not long after Gill revealed his department’s decision in the police shooting.
“We are deeply disappointed and grieved,” said attorney Nathan S. Morris, reading a statement from the family, who believes that the DA’s decision supports continuing a system of oppression, especially, the family said, the oppression of minorities.
Gill’s decision not to charge the officers involved in Palacios-Carbajal’s shooting is a failure by the DA, the family said. They believe that Utah law allows the District Attorney to charge police officers.
They say that Gill based his decision on speculation and that he gave the officers the benefit of the doubt.
The family has asked for peaceful protests to continue in the name of their son, for the Salt Lake City police department to continue an internal investigation, and for Utah lawmakers to change laws which they say favor the police.
Response from Salt Lake City leaders
In a statement, the Salt Lake City Council noted that the legal standard for determining whether deadly force is justified or not is set by Utah law and is based on federal precedent.
“However, the Salt Lake City Council believes that we deserve better,” the statement read.
“We do not accept these systems as they are. We commit to doing our part to improve our City systems while advocating for changes outside our purview at the State or Federal level that will root out racism, dismantle systemic injustice, and lead the State of Utah in promoting equity and justice for all residents.”
Black Lives Matter responds
“Sim Gill continuously denies justice to the families of police brutality victims,” said Lex Scot, who represents Black Lives Matter Utah, in a statement released after the DA’s ruling was made public.
“Black Lives Matter Utah will continue to work for a system that will not allow police to shoot fleeing suspects in the back.
Body camera footage of the shooting was released by the SLCPD on June 5 and showed the two officers pursuing Palacios-Carbajal through an alleyway and across a street before shooting him.
The video reportedly shows that Palacios was shot multiple times in the back as he fled.
Content Warning: This video contains sensitive or violent content.
Police Chief: “I trust our officers”
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown focused on trust when responding to the DA Sim Gill’s decision not to file charges against the officers.
“In cases like these, I rely on the diligent efforts of the District Attorney’s office, the recommendations from the Civilian Review Board, and the results of the Internal Affairs investigation, Brown said.
“I trust the transparency and accountability afforded to the community through this investigative process we have in place to address Officer-Involved Critical Incidents.
“I trust our extensive training. It is second to none in the state!
“But, more importantly, I trust our officers. I trust them to operate within the bounds of the laws and according to their use of force training.
Two officers were placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation.
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