Thursday, July 9th, the District Attorney of Salt Lake County, Sim Gill, announced his decision to rule the shooting and death of 22-year-old Bernardo Palacios, as “justified.” More than 20 shots were fired at Bernardo Palacios while running away from Salt Lake Police on May 23rd.
In reports, Gill stated that the police were justified in their actions because Bernardo dropped and picked up his gun multiple times while fleeing the scene.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, “Two police officers fired 34 rounds at Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal in May, killing him. The officers said they knew the man had a gun and worried he could turn around quickly and shoot them. Their first bullets hit him in the back.”
Gill’s decision caused mass outrage. Protests went on into the evening as “Justice for Bernardo” was chanted across the downtown area. Frustrated protestors painted the street outside of Gill’s office red and smashed in windows. Bloody-red handprints marked the glass next to the numerous posters.
Once again, the noise of helicopters disturbed the evening in the area around downtown as what police had hoped would be a peaceful protest turned rowdy. Authorities expected a protest, just as most people who have been observing the SLCPD over the years must have expected Gill’s decision—very seldom has a DA found police action “unjustified.” In the past decade, no Utah cops have been convicted of murder or manslaughter, and shootings are ruled as justified 92% of the time, according to the Tribune. Police in Utah are legally allowed to kill someone if they feel that person may hurt or kill someone else.
And, as an LATimes op-ed pointed out years ago, “too many have died and been seriously injured from unnecessary police use of deadly force.”
It’s time for American police forces to find another way to fight crime. Sim Gill apparently agrees, saying that although his decision was in accordance with current law, the laws around police use of force need to change.
The need is urgent, Mr. Gill.
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