A team of reporters from The Salt Lake Tribune and the PBS series FRONTLINE spent the past year investigating police shootings in Utah.
You can watch the hourlong documentary “Shots Fired” here.
The team of journalists requested hundreds of police records, watched hours of body camera footage and talked to dozens of families for this project. There are rich details that didn’t make the final cut of the film, so here’s more information for those who want to dive deeper.
Their brother catalyzed a movement in Utah. Now Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal’s siblings just want relief.
Salt Lake City police shot and killed Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal in May 2020, two days before George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minnesota. Palacios-Carbajal’s case catalyzed a movement in Utah, with near-daily protests that summer. A year after his death, Tribune reporter Paighten Harkins spent time with Palacios-Carbajal’s siblings, who said it’s been hard to move forward.
A Utah prosecutor wants the use-of-force law changed and offers 22 suggestions
After ruling that officers were justified in shooting Palacios-Carbajal, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill reached his own tipping point. He believes Utah’s laws are “more generous to law enforcement officers than to other members of our community.” In reaction, Gill released a list of proposed changes to when police are justified in using deadly force. He continues to push these ideas, which have gained little traction among Utah’s conservative lawmakers.
A West Valley City police officer killed a man inside the police department. It was his third shooting.
Michael Chad Breinholt was shot and killed inside West Valley City’s police department Aug. 23, 2019. Tribune reporter Jessica Miller spent six months in a records dispute for the full body camera footage of that day, which shows Breinholt in distress and asking to be taken to a psychiatric hospital after he was arrested for DUI. Gill also ruled this shooting justified, but he called it disturbing.
A Utah first: Data that shows the race of people police shoot at
Reporters from The Tribune and FRONTLINE spent months collecting data on the race of people shot at by police in Utah, finding that racial and ethnic minorities account for a third of the people shot at by Utah police over the past decade — despite these groups making up just a quarter of the population.
Reporters reached out to family members, lawyers and those who survived after being shot at by police. Hundreds of law enforcement documents were requested and reviewed. Data was then cross-checked with national lists of people police killed.
With this data, the team talked to police, activists and others to get their reactions.
Police training and the role that fear plays when officers pull the trigger
Tribune reporter Paighten Harkins and FRONTLINE producer Abby Ellis observed hours of police training last winter. They saw trainers who often focused on worst-case scenarios and pushed cadets to make life-or-death decisions.
Some reform-minded law enforcement leaders and experts have argued that this approach to training could predispose officers to shoot when it isn’t necessary if they are exposed to a “constant level of threat.” Utah’s police trainers defend their practices, saying they have just a few days to get cadets prepared for a world of dangerous possibilities.