Salt Lake City Police Shooting Spurs Protests

Associated Press

A teenaged boy who authorities say was wielding a broomstick was shot and critically injured by Salt Lake City officers Saturday night, touching off unrest downtown as officers donned riot gear and blocked streets and bystanders threw rocks and bottles.

He was shot by two Salt Lake City Police officers  and was in critical condition at a local hospital Sunday morning after being struck twice in the torso, according to Detective Ken Hansen with the Unified Police Department, which is investigating the shooting. Hansen did not provide the boy’s identity, but told The Salt Lake Tribune that he was older than 16.

Hansen said the shooting occurred when two Salt Lake City officers were called around 8 p.m. to break up a fight near a downtown homeless shelter that sits next to a shopping mall and movie theater.

When the officers arrived, they found the male in the street, hitting another person with the broomstick, Hansen said. Officers tried to break up the fight, but the male with the broomstick tried to attack an officer, he said.

One or both of the police officers then shot the male, hitting him in the upper and lower torso, Hansen said.

He did not have details about the identity of the other person involved in the fight, what prompted the dispute or whether anyone else was injured.

“There’s still a lot to go through,” Hansen said.

Police are not releasing the identity of the officers, he said.

Bystander Selam Mohammad told The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News that his teenage friend was shot by police.

Mohammad told the newspapers that his friend was holding the broomstick at his side when officers arrived and that police shot him as he turned around.

“He barely even turned around, then boom, boom, boom — and he just dropped,” Mohammad told the Deseret News.

When asked about that account, Hansen said he did not have details to confirm or deny that information. Hansen had no information about how many shots were fired or how far away the male with the broomstick was from police when they pulled their guns. He did not know the size of the broomstick or whether it was sharpened. He also did not know whether the male had a gun, knife or any other weapon on him at the time.

After the shooting, bystanders began yelling obscenities and throwing rocks and bottles at police, who called in about 100 officers to help.

Police, including officers wearing helmets and carrying riot shields, barricaded four surrounding city blocks. A light rail stop in the neighborhood was closed.

Hansen said the protesters throwing rocks and bottles were people hanging out near the shelter. He didn’t know if they were homeless, but he said they were not customers of the nearby shopping center. Hansen said the area was relatively busy, with people visiting the shopping center and restaurants and others hanging out near the shelter and homeless facilities.

“There were pockets of that disturbance for hours,” Hansen said Sunday.

Salt Lake City Police Detective Greg Wilking said did not have details Sunday about how the shooting unfolded or the identities of the two males or two officers involved in the shooting.

Neither officer involved in the shooting was injured, Wilking said. Both officers were placed administrative leave while the incident is investigated.

The male that police believe was hit with the broomstick did not require medical attention, Wilking said.

Wilking said police asked bystanders to leave the area and put up barricades and tape to clear streets. He did not know how long bystanders were throwing objects at police but said it went on for a matter of minutes, not hours.

He said the area near the shooting was crowded but he did not know how many people were involved in throwing objects at officers. Wilking said several people were arrested but he did not know how many. He said he did not know of any incidents where police cleared streets by using riot shields to physically move people.

The department planned to release more information later Sunday.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said in a statement Sunday that she was saddened and that the shooting was a tragedy for everyone involved.

“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,” she said. “These incidents create a number of unanswered questions in the short term, and justice requires we work together in good faith to find answers.”