Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal was 22 years old when he was shot and killed by Salt Lake City police this summer, a death that helped to catalyze a movement against police violence in Utah’s capital.
On Wednesday, he would have turned 23, and a group of about 100 family and friends came together to celebrate his life and reflect on what his death has meant to the community.
The party took place near 300 W. 800 South, where a group of anonymous artists painted a series of murals to honor people in Utah who’d been killed by police. Palacios-Carbajal was among the first additions to the white facade of the building, owned by the city that stores its fleet of official vehicles.
Among the groups of mingling people, there was the constant beat of music, the scent of warming tamales, baskets of candy, flowers in abundance and two piñatas waiting to be smashed open.
People had placed paper flowers around Palacios-Carbajal’s mural, offset by a series of silver balloons that spelled, “Happy B-day." They also put up a white, wooden cross.
The celebration lasted well after dark and ended after the group sang happy birthday to Palacios-Carbajal and chanted “Long live Loske," one of Palacios-Carbajal’s nicknames.
Salt Lake County prosecutors found that Officers Neil Iversen and Kevin Fortuna were legally justified in shooting more than 30 rounds at Palacios-Carbajal as he fled from them May 23, dropping and retrieving a handgun multiple times, before he was ultimately fatally shot.
That decision sparked a protest outside the district attorney’s downtown office, where some spread red paint on the ground to symbolize the blood they believed were one prosecutors’ hands and smashed out a few windows.
Palacios-Carbajal’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the shooting officers.
Activists with the Justice for Bernardo group are asking those who can to donate to Palacios-Carbajal’s family’s Venmo account — @elsakp — to help fund a headstone for his grave.