Salt Lake City police say they’re looking into a video shared widely on social media that appears to show an officer firing a beanbag gun at the back of a man who was face down on the ground with his hands up at a raucous demonstration against police brutality downtown Saturday.
The officer is not with the Salt Lake City Police Department, said Detective Greg Wilking, a spokesman with the agency. But Wilking said his office is working to determine which department employs the officer and will then vet and turn over any complaints Salt Lake City has received.
The video — which has been slowed down and annotated to focus attention on the incident — shows a man put his hands up and sit back down near the downtown Salt Lake City Library as a line of police officers with shields descend upon a group of protesters.
An officer then appears to rush toward the man, whom The Salt Lake Tribune has identified as 30-year-old Jarod Hartlerode, and fires the beanbag gun near his back.
The crowd immediately broke into screams. “What the f---!” yelled the man filming the video as he rushed closer to the scene.
“Hell no!” he screamed. “He just shot him when he was prone on the f---ing ground!”
The user who posted the video on Reddit did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The footage is shot from far enough away to make the officer in the back right corner of the frame unidentifiable, and it’s difficult to see the details of what went down.
But a sequence of photos taken by a Tribune photographer at the protest shows the officer more clearly. He’s wearing a police vest with sunglasses, a camo baseball cap and a bandana around his mouth, obscuring his face. The photos show his finger pulling the trigger, his gun pointed near Hartlerode’s back.
Hartlerode, who is homeless, was arrested for failure to disperse and was booked into Davis County Jail on Saturday. Efforts to locate him Tuesday for an interview were unsuccessful.
It’s not audible on the video, but The Tribune’s photographer remembers officers yelling “Drop the pipe!” before Hartlerode was arrested. It was unclear what kind of pipe they were referring to.
Wilking, with the Salt Lake City Police Department, said he was aware of the video but hadn’t seen it. He declined to comment on its contents even after watching it, noting that it wouldn’t be his place to speak on the actions of an officer not employed with his agency.
“I would be in somebody else’s lane,” he said.
Police officers from 13 jurisdictions, the Utah Highway Patrol and up to 200 National Guardsmen were called up to enforce the law in the capital city during the protest. Wilking said the Salt Lake City department has reached out to the other agencies that arrived that day, asking, “Do you know who this is?”
But it will likely take time for the department to identify the officer involved in the shooting, Wilking noted, since the agency has pulled people off investigative work to address the protests and enforce curfew orders.
“I don’t think the public understands that right now the police department is in crisis management; it’s not in an investigative mode,” he said. “And so even these things that transpired during the protest have been very slow to be investigated.”
Salt Lake City police are investigating at least two other incidents that occurred at Saturday’s hourslong rally denouncing racism and deadly force by law enforcement, where protesters set two cars on fire and threw rocks at the windows of businesses and cars while police responded with rubber bullets and arrests.
Police say they are investigating a man who drove his vehicle into the crowd and pulled out a bow and arrow that he allegedly aimed at protesters. The man, who has been identified as Brandon McCormick, was not arrested that night and gave media interviews from his home Monday. The department says it is screening charges against the man.
A second incident under investigation is one in which a Salt Lake City police officer, decked out in riot gear, knocked over an elderly man with a cane while he was standing on a sidewalk by the library.
Police have said that officer, who has not been named, was removed from field assignments and is working in the office pending a review.