Sister of man killed by Salt Lake City police said officers 'didn't give him a chance'

SLC Mayor Biskupski urges unity and calls death of Patrick Harmon a tragedy for his family, and for the officers involved.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Antoinette Harmon, the sister of Patrick Harmon, gets a hug from Preslie Pauar, at a Black Lives Matter protest Sept. 30 against police brutality.

Mayor Jackie Biskupski moved to find common ground between law enforcement and the minority community late Monday after video of the controversial shooting of a 50-year-old black man by Salt Lake City police went viral.

Patrick Harmon was pulled over Aug. 13 for illegally crossing State Street on a bicycle. Police body-camera video wasn’t released until Oct. 4. It shows Harmon being shot as he fled three police officers on foot about 10:30 p.m. near 1000 S. State.

In a prepared statement, the mayor also seemed to distance herself from a ruling by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill that found the shooting justified.

Harmon’s death made national headlines Sunday and Monday after the D.A. said he wouldn’t file charges because the officer who shot him, Clinton Fox, said he feared for his life — a tenet of Utah law that allows for the use of deadly force.

According to the D.A.’s report, Harmon had pulled a knife and threatened to kill the officers.

The bullets struck Harmon in the arm, the side and the left hip, according to Gill.

A second officer had deployed a stun gun.

Family, friends and protestors Sunday called for the ouster of district attorney.

Tuesday, Gill called on the FBI to review the shooting. The agency also will review the DA’s investigation and the conclusion that it was justified.

“In order to be thorough, and given the seriousness of the case and the considerable public interest in the matter,” Gill said, “all issues must be completely examined to preserve the public’s trust in the criminal justice system and ensure the right measures are taken in this case.”

Also Tuesday, Harmon’s sister Antoinette Harmon reacted to Biskupski’s statement by saying, “I don’t appreciate any of this. You know they are going to protect the police. It’s not fair and it’s not justice.”

In her statement, Biskupski said it is not up to her to determine whether the shooting was justified.

“It is my job, however, to help our community move forward on the issues we face together — this includes trust between our community and police, and institutions of justice.”

The mayor is the adoptive mother of a black boy. She also spent a decade working for the Salt Lake County sheriff. That perspective, she said, allows her to see that such incidents quickly divide communities when people take up positions on either side.

Harmon’s death is not only a tragedy for his family and loved ones, the mayor said, but also for the officers involved.

That message brought no solace to Lex Scott, an organizer for Black Lives Matter and founder of United Front, a civil rights organization.

Law enforcement officers must be held accountable for their actions, Scott said Tuesday.

“Police aren’t under attack in this city. Black men are under attack in this city,” Scott said. “Black men have the right to make it to court. The fact that Sim Gill justified this murder is disgusting.”

Scott said she and others have been seeking a new Salt Lake City policy regarding the release of police body-camera video. Waiting for weeks after police shootings for video does nothing to bring trust to the community, she said.

“All police body-cam footage should be released unedited with sound within 24 hours,” she said.

In a telephone interview from her home in St. Louis, Antoinette Harmon said that after viewing the video she could not understand why her brother was shot.

“I want this to stop. People are afraid for their lives from the police,” she said. “Police are supposed to help people. They didn’t give him a chance.”

Antoinette Harmon, who attended a non-violent demonstration at Salt Lake City’s Public Safety Building on Sunday, said she opposes violent protests, like those in Ferguson, Mo. after the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown. Regarding the mayor’s call for unity, Harmon said she hopes people will come together.

“They have to come together and figure out what is happening with all those shootings in Utah,” she said. “I hope the mayor can train her officers to stop killing minorities and the homeless.”

An acquaintance told The Tribune that, at heart, Harmon was a good man.

“Patrick had many wonderful qualities, and he also had his demons,” said Jacque Pace-Fivas. “He was a person who was tormented by the constant pull between those two sides. At his core, he was a good man.”

Patrick Harmon had outstanding warrants when police stopped him in August. According to court records, a $10,000 felony warrant was issued in April after Harmon failed to appear for sentencing in 3rd District Court. Last year, he had pleaded guilty to second-degree felony aggravated assault with serious bodily injury for attacking another man in Salt Lake City.

Harmon’s last known address was The Road Home shelter.

In her statement, Biskupski said she will listen to the community and make changes to prevent such tragedies from recurring.

“I hear your concerns and I want you to keep speaking up,” she said “I also want our law enforcement professionals to keep speaking up — to share their frustrations, and yes, their fears. And I want everyone to be better at listening.”

Utah Against Police Brutality is holding a “City Council pack-in” for body-camera footage reform 6 p.m. on Oct. 17 at City Hall, 451 State Street.