APNewsBreak: Board backs Utah officer in protested shooting
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Salt Lake City officer followed department policy in the shooting of a black man after he ran from police, a civilian review board said in a report released Wednesday about the killing that prompted a public outcry.
The report supports Officer Clinton Fox in the Aug. 13 shooting captured on body camera video that appears to show Patrick Harmon being shot from behind after the officer says, “I’ll (expletive) shoot you.”
The review board said the footage shows Harmon, 50, pausing and apparently pivoting, supporting the officer’s contention Harmon yelled he would stab him with a knife. No knife is discernable in the nighttime video, but investigators said they found one at the scene.
The report cites footage from multiple police body-camera videos, and notes another officer fired a Taser at the same time Fox fired his gun, indicating they reacted separately to Harmon’s actions.
Lex Scott, an organizer with Black Lives Matter in Utah, questioned the findings.
“It’s very disappointing that they believe that three trained officers could not subdue one suspect with a knife without killing him,” Scott said.
Scott said she still hopes the FBI will see the obvious mistakes made by the officers as the agency eyes the case for possible civil-rights violations.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill requested the review after the video drew widespread attention online.
The civilian review board findings are in line with Gill’s determination that the shooting was justified. He has said slowed-down video indicates Harmon turned toward officers who said he threatened them with a knife.
The civilian review board is an independent panel that reviews police misconduct reports and offers recommendations to the police chief.
Officers initially stopped Harmon after he rode his bike across six lanes of traffic on a major downtown street and they noticed he didn’t have a required rear light.
Police said they started to arrest him on outstanding warrants when he broke into a run then turned around with the knife in his hand.
Fox, who is white, told investigators he was terrified. Gill has said Harmon was struck on the side of his body rather than his back.
Harmon’s sister Antoinette Harmon of St. Louis said the video is heartbreaking, and called for Fox and Gill to be removed from their posts.
Police Chief Mike Brown has stood behind Fox, saying he has the training and judgment to make split-second decisions. Public records show Fox joined the department’s patrol squad in March 2016, after working in law enforcement for nine years, and has no record of discipline there.
The shooting came amid an intense debate throughout the United States about race and policing following fatal shootings of black men.
High-profile cases in Utah have included 22-year-old Darrien Hunt, who was killed while holding a samurai sword in 2014, and Abdi Mohamed, a teenager who was wounded in 2016 after police said he refused to drop a broom stick in a fight.
Associated Press writer Brady McCombs contributed to this report.