Two Salt Lake City police officers will not be disciplined or charged with the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old man 34 times in the back when he ran away because his murder was “justified,” authorities said Thursday.
Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal was shot by officers Neil Iversen and Kevin Fortuna outside Utah Village Motel in the early hours of May 23 after responding to reports of a suspect “making threats with a weapon.”
Sim Gill, a prosecutor in Salt Lake County, said on Thursday that police actions were “reasonable” and “justified” when they fired 34 rounds at the young man and that no charges would be brought against them.
The murder of Palacios-Carbajal sparked protests in the area with locals and family members holding gatherings that demanded justice – calls that were further amplified after the Memorial murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, 22, (photo) was shot in the early hours of May 23 by officers Neil Iversen and Kevin Fortuna outside Utah Village Motel after responding to reports of a suspect ‘making threats with a weapon.’
Gill announced the outcome of the investigation into the 22-year-old’s death on Thursday at a news conference, saying that Iversen and Fortuna saw that Palacios-Carbajal was armed and feared he would shoot them.
The officers initially fired six to eight shots and then saw Palacios-Carbajal try to lift his gun and so they fired back at him, Gill said.
Police fired a total of 34 rounds at Palacios-Carbajal, with the victim sustaining ’13 to 15 wounds’ while a hail of bullets poured down on him.
Gill added that it was not possible to determine exactly how many bullets hit the young man.
The footage shown at the conference revealed a rifle resting on Palacios-Carbajal’s waist while lying dead on the floor.
Gill said that under Utah law, the use of lethal force by the police was legally justified.
The law states that officers can use lethal force if “the suspect has committed a crime that caused or threatens to cause death or serious bodily injury,” “prevent” the suspect’s escape, or “the suspect threatens death “or serious bodily harm to the officer or to others,” he said.
“In this case, it is justified under the law,” said Gill.
Sim Gill, prosecutor in Salt Lake County, said at a news conference on Thursday (photo) that police actions were “reasonable” and “justified” when they fired 34 shots at the young man and there would be no criminal charges against them be set
Palacios-Carbajal was murdered just after 2 a.m. on May 23 when Salt Lake police were called to report that a suspect was making “ gun threats ” and holding a gun to a victim’s head, police said in June.
Bodycam footage released by police in June showed that the two officers arrived on site outside the Utah Village Motel and saw a man – Palacios-Carbajal – immediately run them across the parking lot.
Police chased him on foot with weapons drawn, as an officer says through the police radio that he is armed.
“He’s got a gun in his pocket. He’s reaching to the right… ”the officer hears.
Bodycam footage released by police in June showed that the two officers arrived on site outside the Utah Village Motel and saw a man – Palacios-Carbajal – immediately run them across the parking lot
The police chased him on foot with drawn weapons, as an officer says through police that the suspect is armed
Palacios-Carbajal stumbles and falls before rising and falling again. A cop shouts at him taser, but moments later a hail of gunfire rings
The chase continues in an alley and the police are shouted ‘stop’, ‘show me your hands’ or ‘drop’ a total of 17 times.
When they reach Granary Storage’s parking lot, Palacios-Carbajal stumbles and falls before getting up and falling again.
A cop shouts at him taser, but moments later a hail of gunfire rings.
The Palacios-Carbajal family called on the officers to be charged with his murder, pointing out that he ran away when they shot him and that bodycam footage does not show him pointing a weapon during the chase.
Protesters gather almost daily, demanding justice for his murder, and flyers reading “Justice for Bernardo” can be seen all over the prosecutor’s office.
Several local officials also destroyed the murder after viewing the bodycam footage.
Peaceful protesters on a June 27 march in Salt Lake City condemning the death of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal. The Palacios-Carbajal family called on the officers to be charged with murder, pointing out that he ran away when they shot him
Protesters gather almost daily, demanding justice for his murder, and flyers reading ‘Justice for Bernardo’ can be seen all over the prosecutor’s office
Lucy Carbajal, the 22-year-old’s mother, is seen crying at a protest held for her son in June
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall previously called the footage “ really disturbing and disturbing, ” while Councilor Amy Fowler said she thought Palacios-Carbajal had been “ wrongfully murdered ” by the agents.
But Gill said the police fired at him after seeing him fall several times and pick up a gun.
He added that the dead-recovered rifle was fully loaded and there was a bullet in the chamber.
While judging the murder to be legally justified, Gill calls for the police to change the use of violent laws and vows to reform the police.
As many as 92 percent of Utah police shootings since 2010 are legally justified, according to one Salt Lake Tribune analysis.
This is because calls for police reform across the country are on the rise after Floyd’s death and shocking images have revealed multiple instances of police brutality and racism during arrests.