SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Witnesses say police shot a 17 year-old boy following an altercation near the Rio Grande District in Salt Lake City.
“Our officers were responding to a situation in front of the shelter here. While they were on scene there were shots fired, our officers called for assistance, several people were agitated in the crowd, our officers encountered a lot of hostile people who were upset about what had happened,” said Det. Greg Wilking with Salt Lake City Police.
This all began shortly after 8:00 p.m. Witnesses who knew the young man say he was a 17 year-old teen no taller than 5’4″ and weighing close to 100 lb.
Witnesses tell ABC4 News that the teen had been drinking and had a broom stick as a weapon. An altercation then took place between the teen and another individual near the homeless shelter that was witnessed by several people.
“What happened was, I was just posted up over here just chilling over here and I look over to my left and I see a little dude, he just got like a little broomstick, like a broken broomstick. So, what happened was he was trying to hit him, and he was missing them all because he was drunk you know? He was hella drunk so I see two police come over I thought they had tasers the whole time, nah these boys had guns! So, they come over here they tell him to ‘freeze,’ he don’t hear them and he can’t do nothing because he drunk, so they run up on him and start shooting, pow, pow, pow, pow!” said a homeless youth who wanted to go by the name Taylor.
Witnesses reported hearing anywhere between 4-6 gun shots go off and said the teen was shot in the chest at least 3 times.
“They had a good, I’d say 50 feet on the kid, told him to put the weapon down, he didn’t, he turned towards the cops,” said Jake Moore.
This afternoon Salt Lake City Police released more details regarding the incident following a meeting with Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski requesting police be transparent in the case, but their account of the events paint a different picture. In a statement SLCPD said:
” ..Officers witnessed two males with metal objects attacking a male victim. Officers confronted the two suspects and ordered them to drop the weapons. One of the males complied and dropped the weapon, the other continued to advance on the victim and was shot by officers. The male was transported to the hospital and remains in critical condition. The male has been identified and is 17 years old. Because of his age, his identity will not be released.”
Shortly after the shooting a riot took place near Rio Grande and 200 S Street. Multiple agencies responded to the scene from West Valley City, Salt Lake City, Unified Police, and Utah Highway Patrol to control the rioters. Police were in full riot gear as they tried to subdue the crowd who were throwing rocks and debris at officers.
” I walked over to go to a concert and decided to come this way and was just chaos,” said Adam Lane. “Homeless people throwing things, cops..it was nutty…People were rioting it was crazy.”
In their statement Salt Lake Police said that four suspects were arrested for “crimes related to civil disorder.” They also confirmed both officers involved in the incident were equipped with body cameras and the footage had been turned over to Unified Police who have taken over the investigation. Their statement also said the District Attorney’s office will review the case and other independent reviews will be conducted by the Salt Lake City Civilian Review Board, SLCPD Internal Affairs and the SLCPD Training Unit.
In a statement Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said, “We are committed to ensuring the Salt Lake City Police Department does business appropriately, in line with the community’s trust and expectations. Our goal is to always de-escalate any type of volatile situation using the minimal amount of force necessary.”
The departments statements came following Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s reaction to last night’s events. In her statement the mayor said she was saddened by the incident and called it a tragedy.
“The use of force by law enforcement against the public can tear at the delicate balance of trust between both sides, and must be taken extremely serious,” she said. “These incidents create a number of unanswered question in the short term, and justice requires we work together in good faith to find answers.”
The mayor also pointed out that this is the third incident for the department in relation to use of force in the last month and said she had a “serious conversation” with the police chief and members of his team to go over details of the case. She said she also engaged with them in a discussion about training and whether de-escalation measures could have been taken, and assured the community that those conversations would continue for weeks.
“I have asked the Salt Lake City Police Department to release as much information to the public as possible, without compromising the integrity of this investigation,” said Biskupski. “I have also made a request for Chief Brown to reach out to members of the young man’s family, as well as meet personally with members of the police reform community as soon as possible.”
Both officers involved in the case have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.
Many questions remain unanswered surrounding the shooting. Outside of a prepared statement police have yet to engage the media directly to get answers to those questions.
ABC4 News will continue to update this developing story as details emerge.