The family of a 17-year-old Somali refugee shot by police in Salt Lake City on Saturday said he underwent another surgery Tuesday and his condition appears to be stabilizing, though doctors still can’t say if he’ll survive.
Abdi Mohamed’s cousin Muslima Weledi said the family wants to see body-camera footage from the shooting to find out exactly what happened before officers fired, hitting him twice in the torso.
“As a family, we have the right to see the video. We have the right to know what really happened,” she told the Associated Press.
The teen’s family has only been allowed to visit him once in the hospital, accompanied by interim Police Chief Mike Brown, she said. He opened his eyes during that brief window and wrote a note saying he misses his family, but his condition is still too critical for him to be awake long, she said.
While Brown apologized for the teen’s condition, Weledi said the family also has a right to know more about why he was shot.
Police have said that Mohamed and a second person were beating a man with some type of metal sticks when officers intervened Saturday. Officers fired after he moved menacingly toward the man who was beaten instead of immediately obeying a command to drop the stick, police said.
The teen’s friends dispute that version of what happened. Friend Selam Mohammad told The Salt Lake Tribune the fight started after a stranger made a comment about Abdi Mohamed’s girlfriend, and the other man was also armed with a stick.
His girlfriend Becca Monson said she dropped off the two friends earlier in the day so they could visit a friend at a nearby homeless shelter. Monson said she went to the movies with their young son and was planning to pick her boyfriend back up when she heard he had been shot.
The shooting touched off unrest in the bustling downtown area that’s also near the arena where the Utah Jazz play. The public outcry continued as police refused to release the video to the public until the investigation into the shooting is complete.
Authorities say the video must be viewed in context with other evidence. But critics point to cases where footage has been released sooner and say the decision highlights inconsistency in how the records are handled.
Weledi said Mohamed is a great person who struggles with anxiety and a rough past.
He has a juvenile history of a dozen offenses since late 2010, including theft, trespassing and aggravated assault with a weapon, court records show.
Meanwhile, residents vented frustrations over the shooting on Wednesday at a “listening session” in a Salt Lake City library, The Tribune reported.
“I’m concerned that we’re not sending the right responders,” said Marcia Rodriguez at the meeting. “These officers should be trained in de-escalation before [they are sent out on such calls] and shoot.”