Salt Lake Police confirmed to the Salt Lake Tribune late Saturday that one officer, and possibly a second, were involved in the shooting. Det. Greg Wilking also confirmed shots had been fired, but did not disclose how many.
According to a tweet by the Salt Lake Police, “officers on unrelated call in area, alerted to assault in progress, tried to engage altercation.”
Witnesses to the shooting say the teen was involved in an altercation with another individual. Police arriving on scene attempted to break up the fight and claimed the victim was wielding a metal pipe — though witnesses dispute this claim, saying the boy only had a broomstick and was not using it in a threatening manner against officers.
Further, Selam Mohammad, who witnessed the shooting and gave his account to the Tribune, says the victim, who was also his friend, had been holding that broomstick at his side when police arrived.
“They told him to put it down once,” Mohammad told the Tribune, but “police started shooting him as soon as he turned around.”
Mohammad said the 16-year-old was shot in both the chest and stomach, and bystanders recall hearing four gunshots.
Anger boiled over as witnesses to the shooting say police did not give the boy sufficient time to respond to their demands that he drop the stick.
RT reported that it took police two hours from the first reports of gunfire to say the shooting had involved an officer.
Neighboring departments were called in to deal with the unrest in the aftermath, which the Tribune said included the Unified Police Dept., West Valley City, Sandy, and University of Utah.
Unified Police will reportedly conduct an investigation of the shooting. A year-old law mandates investigations of officer-involved shootings be conducted by “outside agencies.”
According to the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) which is overseen by the Utah Department of Safety, officers are allowed to employ force in certain situations. According to the manual,
“Officers may use any force available provided they can justify the reasonableness of force used.”
If witness accounts are verified, and the 16-year-old was holding — not even wielding — a broomstick, it would seem the use of force cannot possibly be justified in this instance.
Salt Lake Police would not comment whether officers involved were using body cams or not.