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Protesters rally against Abdi Mohamed shooting while police advocates tout ‘heroism’

First Published      Last Updated Feb 21 2017 08:52 pm

Advocacy groups draw different conclusions from footage.

A day after the release of body-camera footage depicting police shooting then-17-year-old Abdullahi "Abdi" Mohamed, protesters rallied against the two officers who fired their weapons and the district attorney who cleared them.

But a police advocacy group said Tuesday that the videos show a legally justified shooting of someone intent on violence, and that the officers followed their training.

Salt Lake City police officers Kory Checketts and Jordan Winegar shot and critically injured Mohamed, now 18, near a downtown homeless shelter on Feb. 27. Court records say Mohamed was assaulting another man over a drug dispute when the two officers came upon the fight.

Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill released the body-cam footage to the public Monday, after it was shown in court during Mohamed's preliminary hearing on robbery and drug charges.

Matt Romrell, of Utah Against Police Brutality, said that when the group saw the video, "jaws hit the floor."

During a rally Tuesday night at the city's public safety building, activists such as Lex Scott called for the charges against Mohamed ­to be dropped.

"I don't care what crimes Abdi was [allegedly] committing. They didn't try any de-escalating tactics," said the activist, a member of the United Front and Community Activist Group organizations.

Ian De Oliveira, with Utah Against Police Brutality, said the footage doesn't match the account they'd been given by Gill; the activist said deadly force was used too soon, rather than as an "absolute last resort."

"We see it from the point at which they're across the street, and the first thing they do is pull out the gun," said De Oliveira.

Ian Adams, executive director of the Utah Fraternal Order of Police, said earlier Tuesday that the video footage shows that the shooting was a "totally, legally justified shooting."

He said Checketts and Winegar acted heroically.

"They are down there, responding to a totally separate complaint," Adams said. "They're not expecting to be involved [in a shooting] 30 seconds later. But one of the officers, his attention is called to an aggravated assault and they immediately both rush to assist that victim. That's what I mean by heroism."

The body cameras show the officers spotting the altercation involving Mohamed, an unidentified man and Kelly McRae. The police run and yell at Mohamed to drop the metal broom handle he is carrying.

About 15 seconds later, shots are fired.

In the video, Mohamed does not appear to react to the officers. Instead, he walks toward McRae with the broom handle in his hand as McRae backs up, his hands in the air.

Adams he found it significant that everyone but Mohamed reacted to the officers running toward them and yelling.

"It stood out to me that everybody in the area hears what those officers are saying," he said. "Mr. Mohamed is clearly so intent on assaulting that victim. If he's simply choosing not to hear them or he's just so locked in to his violent ways that he doesn't hear them — either way, the fact is that everyone else, including one of the other suspects, responds. That tells me Mr. Mohamed had every chance to surrender in a peaceful way and just didn't."

After the shooting, the teen lay bleeding on the ground for at least five minutes without receiving first aid. The video shows a crowd of people gathering near the teen and yelling as the two officers holler at the crowd to get back.

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