The shooting of Abdullahi Mohamed by Salt Lake City police in February left the 17-year-old teen in a coma for weeks and led to protests through the city's downtown. Now a prosecutor is saying that police were right to shoot the Somali refugee—and he's planning to prosecute Mohamed instead.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced Monday that he had found the officers were justified in shooting Mohamed—who goes by the nickname Abdi—five times when they found him wielding a broomstick in a fight outside a homeless shelter.
According to his report, officers arrived outside the shelter to find Mohamed and another man beating a third person with a "metal object." The man being assaulted, identified in the report as "K.M.", later said he attempted to buy drugs from Mohamed, who assaulted K.M. after learning he did not have any money.
The report states that body camera footage shows police warning Mohamed to drop his makeshift weapon multiple times, and officers opened fire after Mohamed continued to advance towards K.M. In the report, Officer Jordan Winegar characterized Mohamed as having a "“slow, methodical rage, and he’s like, on a mission," which led to the officer's decision to open fire.
Mohamed, who spent weeks in a coma and now requires the use of a wheelchair, told the Salt Lake Tribune he denies assaulting anyone over drugs.
At least one witness account presents a different narrative than the one offered by police. Mohamed's friend, Selam Mohammad, told the Tribune that the fight was over comments made about her, not drugs and that police barely gave Mohamed time to react before opening fire.
"They told him to put it down, once," Mohammad told the Tribune, and "started shooting him as soon as he turned around."
Body camera footage might clear up discrepancy, and is verbally described in parts of the report, but Gill is refusing to release the footage to the public. He previously denied requests from the American Civil Liberties Union to view the footage on the grounds that it was part of the investigation into the shooting.
On Monday, he re-affirmed this stance, saying that the footage was now evidence in his office's case against Mohamed, who has been charged in juvenile court with aggravated robbery and drug possession with intent to distribute. Because Mohamed has now turned 18, Gill's office is seeking to have him tried as an adult.
When news of Mohamed's shooting first broke in Salt Lake City, it led to several spontaneous protests in the Utah capital.
The group Utah Against Police Brutality plans to hold a rally tonight at the Salt Lake County Government Center to protest the ruling.