Utah Governor Declares a State of Emergency Due to 'Civil Unrest'

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Salt Lake City police received reports last May 23 of a man making “threats with a weapon” and when they responded, they ended up shooting and killing Bernardo Palacios Carbajal.


The district attorney investigated and found the shooting “justified.” The mob responded with demonstrations that turned violent and today, Utah Governor Gary Herbert declared a “state of emergency” for Salt Lake City.

The Hill:

Protesters flooded the streets after the Salt Lake County district attorney announced that the May police killing of Bernardo Palacios Carbajal was justified.

“In the case of the Salt Lake City Officer Involved Critical Incident that resulted in the death of Bernardo Palacios Carbajal, District Attorney Sim Gill’s findings provide significant evidence of the justifiable actions of Salt Lake City police officers,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall (D) said in a statement after the news was released. “This evidence shows that our officers acted according to their training and the state law regarding use of lethal force.”

This was an open-and-shut case of a justified shooting by the police, as the Salt Lake affiliate of CNN reports.

The use of deadly force actually happened during two separate episodes, he said. The first was when officers were chasing Palacios. At that time, officers thought he had a gun, which is why they had their guns drawn as they were running after him, according to the report. But it wasn’t until Palacios dropped his weapon a third time and stopped to pick it up that they knew for sure that it was a gun.

At that point, the two officers fired six to eight rounds each from about 15 feet away, striking Palacios in the back. Both officers fired at nearly the same time, Gill said.


But the family fueled the mob’s violent demonstration by claiming that Palacios shouldn’t have been killed by police.

The family of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal believes justice was not served. And while they expressed disappointment over Gill’s decision, they were not surprised.

“I am very angry with Mr. Sim Gill. This is not a correct answer, this isn’t a correct decision he has made, and we’re going to keep fighting even though my son isn’t here,” a tearful Lucy Carbajal said.

You can feel pity for a mother’s loss of a son, but it seems pretty clear from the evidence that the cops acted lawfully.

During a press conference that lasted about 75 minutes, Gil methodically went over police body camera video, surveillance video not shown before in public and autopsy photos to explain how he reached his 34-page conclusion that also contained interviews with the officers involved.

Officers Neil Iversen and Kevin Fortuna reasonably believed that they were in imminent risk of being shot or killed by Palacios, who more than once made concerted efforts to pick up a gun he dropped rather than run away, Gill noted in his report.

Evidence doesn’t matter to the mob. Video could have shown the suspect holding a gun to the head of a cop and the mob would still believe the shooting wasn’t justified.

But it’s a legitimate question to ask if Governor Herbert overreacted with his declaration of a state of emergency. The violence was easily contained by the police and there were only two arrests. The protest itself was declared “unlawful” after windows in the district attorney’s office were broken.


Apparently, the protest petered out rather quickly and order was restored. Certainly, Herbert didn’t want things to spiral out of control and his declaration could be seen as a warning to the mob of harsher measures if they become necessary. In that sense, Herbert was acting with an excess of caution, which he is justified in doing.

Not every police shooting is murder as much as the mob would like to think so. And not every police shooting should result in officers being arrested. People who are threatening officers giving chase give police little choice. The district attorney recognized that and ruled accordingly.



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