A Salt Lake City Council member did not violate any rules when she criticized the officers involved in the fatal police shooting of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, according to the findings of an investigation into her social media posts.
In a letter released Wednesday, the Office of Professional Conduct cleared Amy Fowler, who is also a trial attorney, of any wrongdoing after an ethical complaint was filed against her earlier this year through the Utah State Bar. The evidence was “insufficient,” the office concluded, and it has declined to prosecute.
“Further, and regardless of the foregoing, these allegations are unrelated to Ms. Fowler’s practice of law,” the letter states.
The grievance had been filed by the leader of Salt Lake City’s police union and alleged that Fowler abused her position in public office and as a lawyer in making comments on the Palacios-Carbajal case.
Fowler had posted on Facebook in June — in a comment that was not public but which was reported by news outlets — that she believed Palacios-Carbajal was “unlawfully killed.” She continued: “I will do everything in my power to make sure justice is served. There should be no special treatment for police and they should be held to the same standard as anyone else suspected of a similar act.”
Steven Winters, president of the Salt Lake Police Association, wrote in his complaint shortly after that those remarks “jeopardized and politicized an ongoing investigation” and accused Fowler of trying to use her position to influence the outcome. He said, too, that the comments elicited death threats against one of the officers.
He went on to call Fowler’s post and other public statements about Palacios-Carbajal’s death “reckless” and “unethical.” He said in a previous interview: “She was not fair and impartial. She was making judgement calls on the situation without having all the facts.”
Winters did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Fowler said she would let the letter speak for itself. She has previously said she stands by her statement.
“I don’t represent any of the parties involved. I didn’t have any outside or insider knowledge as an attorney or council member,” Fowler said. “I was simply expressing my feelings, and I have a constitutional right to do that.”
She has been one of the most vocal public figures to criticize how officers reacted to Palacios-Carbajal. Her post came shortly after police released the body camera footage.
Early in the morning of May 23, Salt Lake City’s police department received two calls about armed robberies at a motel and found Palacios-Carbajal rummaging through bags on the scene. The footage shows Palacios-Carbajal running away from officers after they confronted him.
He kept stumbling and retrieving a gun that he dropped when he fell. Officers Neil Iversen and Kevin Fortuna yelled “shows us your hands!” and “drop it!” several times. They then fired more than 30 rounds when Palacios-Carbajal continued to flee. He died at the scene.
Palacios-Carbajal’s death fueled multiple protests over the summer, culminating in a clash with police after Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill concluded on July 9 that the shooting was legally justified. The officers said they saw Palacios-Carbajal point his gun at them, and they believed they were in danger.