After almost a year of legal wrangling between the ACLU and Utah prosecutors, body cam footage showing Salt Lake City police officers shooting a teenager wielding a metal rod was released Monday – four months after the cops were cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting.
The video shows Abdullahi “Abdi” Mohamed, 17, advancing towards a man named Kelly McRae while holding the metal rod before he is shot in front of a homeless shelter on February 27, 2016.
The teen does not appear to be raising the rod, which has been described as a broom or mop handle, but appears to be swinging it in a downward manner as McRae is walking backwards with his hands in the air as cops are yelling for him to drop it.
When the teen does not comply within five seconds, he is shot three times.
The teen ended up surviving and is now confined to a wheelchair, facing felony charges.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune:
Mohamed, now 18, was charged with first-degree felony aggravated robbery and second-degree felony possession with intent to distribute. He is accused of assaulting a man with a hollow metal rod after a dispute about a drug purchase the night of Feb. 27, outside a downtown Salt Lake City homeless shelter.
Judge Julie Lund heard testimony about the alleged crimes Monday before finding that there was probable cause for the case to move forward. She will determine at a hearing next month whether Mohamed’s case will stay in juvenile court or move to the adult system.
After the court hearing, the Salt Lake County district attorney’s office released the videos to the public — a move that came after months of denying records requests.
The ACLU recently won a victory before the State Records Committee, which unanimously approved the release of the video.
The county had said it planned to appeal the committee’s decision, but after the footage was shown in court Monday, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said in a news release that he felt it was the right time to release it. Previously, he had said it was critical for the evidence to remain private because releasing it could affect Mohamed’s right to a fair trial.
“My position on public release of videos relating to the Rio Grande officer-involved shooting has never been if, but when,” Gill said. “… We have always said this case presented a very close, nuanced and complicated balancing act between the statutory rights of the public versus the constitutional rights of the juvenile. We have consistently maintained that we would release all information once we were confident that doing so would not violate the rights of the accused or compromise the integrity of the process.”
The ACLU on Monday called the release a “victory for open government and transparency.”
McRae testified that he had walked up to Mohamed asking to buy a joint, but the teen assaulted him instead, although the article does not specify exactly how he was assaulted.
McRae said he gave the teen the metal rod to keep from being assaulted, but the teen ended up beating him with it as another man with a pipe beat him.
Meanwhile, Salt Lake City police officers Kory Checketts and Jordan Winegar were in the area responding to a call of a stolen iPhone when they spotted the altercation.
The second man with the pipe fled the scene, but Mohamed kept advancing. Checketts explained that he thought the rod was a sword or a pipe, so he fired to save McRae’s life.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sam Gill cleared the cops of any wrongdoing in August.
But Gill refused to release the video claiming it would hinder Mohamed’s right to a fair trial.