Lawyers for the Salt Lake City police officers who shot and killed a 22-year-old man two weeks ago sent a letter to city officials Tuesday asking them to stop making public statements to “score political points” without knowing everything that happened that night.
Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal was killed in the early morning of May 23. Police, responding to a call of a gun threat at a motel, chased the Salt Lake City man for several blocks. They fired more than 20 rounds at Palacios-Carbajal as he was running away from them.
After body camera footage was released Friday, many Salt Lake City leaders called for a swift investigation and expressed concern about the shooting. One member of the City Council, Amy Fowler, called the shooting unlawful and vowed to “do everything in my power to ensure that justice is served.”
Tara Isaacson and Walter Bugden, the attorneys for the two officers who shot at Palacios-Carbajal, called the comments “disturbing, irresponsible, and unfair to everyone involved.”
"Critically, the remarks perpetuate a false narrative at a time where our system is at a crossroads and all involved are begging each other to listen and to only speak the truth," they wrote. "This, in itself, is tragic."
The attorneys noted that the officers who fired their weapons ordered Palacios-Carbajal to drop his gun no less than nine times as they chased him, and he was ordered to show his hands 11 times — but he kept running.
Isaacson and Bugden called Palacios-Carbajal’s death a tragedy for his family and the community.
"But make no mistake," they wrote, "the tragedy also extends to the law enforcement officers who were faced with the necessity to take the life of another in order to save others."
Bodycam footage showed the officers encountered Palacios-Carbajal at the Utah Village Motel, 271 W. 900 South, just after 2 a.m. One officer yells, “Show me your hands!” as Palacios-Carbajal starts to run away.
The officers pursued him for several blocks, shouting at him to “drop it!” One officer yells that he sees something in Palacios-Carbajal’s pocket.
The video shows Palacios-Carbajal stumble and fall several times before getting up and continuing to run. After he falls a third time, he picks up something from the ground — police say it was a gun — and continues to try to run away before two officers begin shooting.
It doesn’t appear, based on the body camera videos from the three officers, that Palacios-Carbajal pointed a gun at them and there was no one else nearby.
Police said a gun was found near him after he was shot.
After the release of the body camera footage, the Salt Lake City Council offered a strong statement, decrying the shooting and vowing change.
“We feel outraged at the death of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal,” the council said in a news release. “We are angry about having someone shot and killed in our city.”
Mayor Erin Mendenhall called the bodycam video “genuinely disturbing and upsetting.”
“As mayor I am cautious about stating any opinion that could lead to accusations of an unfair or biased investigation for the sake of the family of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal and the officers involved,” she said. “I urge expediency in this process so that everyone can get the answers they deserve.”
Palacios-Carbajal’s family say they want the officers to be held accountable.
“They didn’t have to kill him,” his sister, Elsa Karina Palacios, said last week. “They didn’t have to shoot him so many times. He was running. He was scared.”