Police were justified in shooting and critically wounding a 17-year-old Somali refugee in a confrontation that sparked unrest and protests in Salt Lake City earlier this year, a Utah prosecutor decided Monday.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said officers acted appropriately when they fired at Abdi Mohamed because police believed the teen was about seriously injure or kill another man with a metal stick.
The teen was struck twice in the torso on Feb. 27, and the shooting became a flashpoint in the nation’s discussion about police use of force against minorities.
Police have said that two Salt Lake City officers intervened as Mohamed and a second person beat a man with metal sticks. The officers fired when Mohamed moved menacingly toward the victim instead of obeying orders to drop the object.
His family disputes that account. His cousin Muslima Weledi has said that witnesses told her Mohamed had a broomstick and misunderstood the command.
The beating victim didn’t need medical attention. Mohamed was hospitalized in a medically induced coma but survived.
The shooting touched off unrest in the bustling downtown area near the city’s main homeless shelter and not far from the arena where the NBA’s Utah Jazz play. The public outcry persisted as police refused to release video from the officers’ body cameras until the investigation was complete.
Mohamed came to the U.S. with his family in 2004 from a refugee camp in Kenya, Weledi said.
Court records show he started getting in trouble with police at age 12 and spent time in juvenile detention centers for theft, trespassing and assault, most recently in September.