Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, 22, died May 23 after he was struck 13 to 15 times as he fled from two Salt Lake City police officers investigating a report of a gun threat. They reportedly yelled for Palacios-Carbajal to drop a gun, which was seen atop his body on police body camera footage.
The two officers, Neil Iversen and Kevin Fortuna, collectively fired 34 shots at Palacios-Carbajal after they confirmed he had a gun in his possession, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sam Gill said while going over the footage and autopsy photos during a news briefing.
“We decline to file criminal charges against either officer for his use of deadly force,” he said.
The family of Palacios-Carbajal expressed disappointment in the decision, saying Gill’s choosing not to pursue criminal charges against the officers perpetuates a “system of oppression.”
“As a family, we will not stop in our pursuit of justice for Bernardo through all means that are available to us,” attorney Nathan S. Morris read from a statement prepared on behalf of the family, who called for peaceful protest.
Attorney Brian Webber said the officers had every opportunity to use non-lethal force, and “there was no reason to fire shot No. 1, let alone shot No. 34.”
Palacios-Carbajal’s death sparked protests similar to other cities where people have died during encounters with police.
The officers saw Palacios-Carbajal at the Utah Village Motel and chased him after someone called police to report an apparent armed robbery, authorities said. They yelled at him to stop and drop the weapon, Gill said.
Video footage shows Palacios-Carbajal picking up what the officers said was a gun after tripping and falling several times while fleeing, Gill said, adding that Palacios-Carbajal seemed determined to hold on to his gun.
“The desire to retrieve the gun was greater than the desire to run away,” he said. “If he had left it, the officers said the imminence of that threat would have been abated for them and they would not have used that force.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.