Neil Iversen & Kevin Fortuna: Salt Lake City Police Officers Cleared in Shooting

SLC police shooting

YouTune/Salt Lake City Police Department Salt Lake City Police Officers Neil Iverson and Kevin Fortuna will not face charges for the May 23 fatal shooting of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal.

Neil Iversen and Kevin Fortuna are two Salt Lake City police officers who fatally shot 22-year-old Bernardo Palacio-Carbajal on May 23; the district attorney’s office ruled Thursday that the officers would not face charges.

Protesters have surrounded the district attorney’s office for weeks, and protests intensified after the report was issued clearing the officers in the fatal shooting, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

A state of emergency has now been declared in the city and Palacios-Carbajal’s family plans to sue the police department, the outlet reported.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Iversen & Fortuna Shot Palacios-Carbajal 34 Times as He Was Fleeing, Killing Him; Police Say He Had a Gun That He Kept Reaching for as He Stumbled

SLCPD presser

YouTube/Salt Lake City PoliceCaptain Richard Lewis, of the Salt Lake City Police Department, briefed the media on the fatal police shooting of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal.

Captain Richard Lewis briefed the media and released the two officers’ body camera footage on June 8.

According to Lewis, at 2:06 a.m., Iversen and another officer responded to a call about a man with a gun threatening someone near the Utah Village Motel. They saw the man when they arrived and Iversen gave chase when he took off.

The man ran through the parking lot of a gentlemen’s club, down an alley and eventually up into a storage lot. Lewis said that the man had a gun in his waistband and kept reaching for it, while officers gave “at least 17” commands to show his hands and drop the gun. Fortuna appeared on the scene shortly, also telling Palacios-Carbajal to drop the gun, according to Lewis.

After stumbling and dropping the gun, then picking it up, the officers opened fire on the man. They fired 34 times at the man who would later be identified as Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, MSN reported. He was hit 20 times, according to the Daily Utah Chronicle.

In the body camera footage, Palacios-Carbajal can be seen stumbling a couple of times and refusing to obey the officers’ commands.

Lewis said officers recovered Palacios-Carbajal’s gun afterward.

It was the department’s third police shooting of 2020, and the first fatal, according to Lewis.

2. District Attorney Sim Gill’s Office Investigated the Shooting & Issued a 34-Page Letter Thursday Declaring the Officers’ Use of Force Was Justified

Sim Gill

Twitter/Sim GillSalt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill issued a 34-page letter on Thursday concluding that Iversen and Fortuna’s use of force was justified.

“Officer Fortuna’s and Officer Iversen’s belief that deadly force was necessary to prevent their death or serious bodily injury and/or the death or serious bodily injury of others was a reasonable belief and one based in observable, objective facts,” Gill wrote. “We also conclude that {they} believed that deadly force was necessary to prevent Palacios-Carbajal’s escape and that [they] had probably cause to believe [he] posed a threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to others if apprehension was delayed.”

During the department’s internal investigation, Iversen said, “There’s only one reason someone’s going to pick up a gun three times, being chased by the police, being told to drop it — he’s going to try to kill me,” according to Gill’s letter.

Iversen claimed that he fired his gun so many times because it was dark and it appeared that after Palacios-Carbajal was first hit, he was rolling over and starting to point the gun at the officers.

3. Protests Have Been Ongoing Since the Shooting & Intensified Thursday After Gill Cleared the Officers; Gov. Gary Herbert Declared a State of Emergency Last Night

Protesters gathered in front of Gill’s Office for weeks, vowing to demonstrate every day until the investigation into Palacios-Carbajal’s death was complete and its results made public, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The protests were largely peaceful until Thursday.

That afternoon, Palacios-Carbajal’s sister, Karina Palacios, spoke at a news conference, saying she was “angry, sad, disgusted,” the Washington Post reported.

“The way they killed him is not right,” she said.

That evening, about 300 protesters again gathered in front of the district attorney’s office, plastering the front doors with the names of victims of police violence and demanding justice.

Chanting, “Too much blood,” protesters wrote in blood-red paint on the sidewalk and glass doors, broke some windows and eventually clashed with police in riot gear, according to the Tribune.

According to local police, one officer was injured and two protesters were arrested.

Thursday night, Gov. Gary Herbert declared a state of emergency, citing protests that “became violent” and the “extensive defacement of the Utah State Capitol building.”

The order extends state resources to back-up local police and closes the state’s capitol building. It is to be in effect until 11:59 p.m. on July 13.

4. Palacios-Carbajal’s Family Vowed to Sue the Police Department & Still Want Iversen & Fortuna Fired

Just hours after Gill announced his office’s decision not to pursue charges against Iversen and Fortuna, Palacios-Carbajal’s family publicly vowed to file a lawsuit against the department, KSL News Radio reported.

At a news conference Thursday, the family’s attorney, Nathan Morris, said, “Contrary to [Gill’s] statement, the law expressly authorizes the state to prosecute the officers who shot Palacios-Carbajal … He ignored that and exonerated the officers at the expense of a fair judicial process.”

Palacios-Carbajal’s sister said that he was “always looking out for” his mother and making sure she ate well, because she was diabetic.

The family not only wants to file a civil lawsuit against the department; they said they want protests to continue and for the department to change its training procedures and state legislators to make their own push for reforms, the Tribune reported.

5. A Number of State Lawmakers Wrote Gill Saying They Have Questions: ‘Watching 20 Bullets Being Fired Into the Back of a Fleeing Suspect Is Cause for Alarm’

On June 26, state legislators sent a joint letter to Gill expressing their concern after seeing the video of Palacios-Carbajal’s killing.

Representatives Angela Romero, Karen Kwan, Sandra Hollins and Mark Wheatley, as well as Senators Luz Escamilla and Jani Iwamoto, signed the letter. The lawmakers noted that after five weeks had passed since the shooting and three since the release of the body camera footage — they demanded “clarity” and “closure” for the community.

“Protesters have gathered regularly over the last several weeks calling for answers,” the Democrats wrote. “We join their calls, but do so without prejudgment or bias. Rather, we do so in the name of providing closure so that we may take collective, concrete steps to prevent future replays of this all-too familiar patter.”

Heavy reached out to all the senators and representatives that signed the letter for comment now that Gill’s report is out, but had not heard back as of Friday evening.

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