Mohamad Barakat is the 37-year-old Fargo, North Dakota, man who is accused of shooting three Fargo police officers on July 14, 2023, killing Officer Jake Wallin, according to a statement from Fargo police. Barakat was fatally shot by another officer, police said.
North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley said in a news conference that Barakat was from Syria and was granted political asylum when he arrived in the United States in 2012. His only brush with the law was a speeding ticket in Fargo in 2018, according to Wrigley, who said Barakat became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 2019.
He said that Barakat had “planned,” intended and armed himself for the tragedy that occurred, describing a cache of weapons and explosive materials in Barakat’s vehicle.
“The Fargo Police Department is identifying the names of those involved in the July 14, 2023 critical incident which occurred near 9th Avenue South and 25th Street South in Fargo,” the Fargo Police Department wrote, releasing the names of the officers, along with their photos.
The slain officer was identified as “Fargo Police Officer Jake Wallin, a native of St. Michael, Minnesota.” A military veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan, Wallin had only been on the job for three months, according to Police Chief David Zibolski, who spoke in a news conference.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Police Chief Said That Mohamad Barakat Shot the Officers ‘for No Known Reason,’ Calling Him a ‘Violent Gunman’
At a news conference on July 16, Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski said for “no known reason at all a violent gunman attacked our officers, firing multiple rounds.”
Wrigley said in the news conference that Barakat had an obvious motive to kill, but it wasn’t particularized to any person or group. He was casing out and driving around and saw the officers, Wrigley said.
“He was very patient going around looking at it from all sides,” Wrigley said, adding, “horrible winds of fate.”
According to Zibolski, police were responding to a traffic crash scene that they don’t believe Barakat was involved in. He also shot at fire officials, Zibolski said.
The FBI is involved in the investigation, he said. “Our officers were out there performing their duties, investigating what we would say was a routine traffic accident,” said Zibolski. As they did that, he said, Barakat “began firing at them, striking three of them. He also fired shots at firefighters” who were tending to crash victims, but none of them was struck.
He said a fire truck was struck by gunfire.
Shannon Nichole, a motorist passing through the area, told KFGO: “I saw the traffic stop and as soon as I drove, shots were fired and I saw the cops go down. My airbag went off and the bullet went through my driver’s door.”
Zibolski said police had prior contact with Barakat, but nothing significant. He did not provide additional details about the past run-in with police and also did not explain where authorities believe Barakat got the weapon. The type of gun has also not been released.
Online records viewed by Heavy show Barakat living in Fargo at an apartment along 23rd Avenue. Zibolski said there was an investigation into whether it was an “ambush,” but added, “it does not appear he was part of the collision.”
All of the other addresses listed in public records for Barakat are also in Fargo.
2. Mohamad Barakat Had Explosive Materials in His Car & a Cache of Weapons, the Attorney General Says
According to Wrigley, Barakat’s vehicle had three large gas containers. All three were filled with gasoline, he said.
There were also two “innocuous looking propane tanks,” but they were filled with “explosive materials concocted at home, purchased lawfully.”
He also had a self-styled hand grenade in the vehicle, Wrigley said, as well a large amount of weaponry and ammunition, including an AK-style rifle and four handguns, all semi-automatics.
In Barakat’s home, authorities found multiple firearms, according to Wrigley, including trail cameras inside his residence and live ammunition strewn about. There were also several phones and one computer and a “variety of grenade parts,” Wrigley said.
“Fargo Police Officer Jake Wallin, a native of St. Michael, Minnesota, was fatally shot in the incident,” the police department said in a statement.
“Wallin, a graduate of Alexandria Technical and Community College and an attendee of the American Military University, served in the Minnesota Army National Guard and had professional experience in the security sector,” the Fargo police statement said.
“Jake was a graduate of Fargo Police Academy IV and became an FPD Officer on April 19, 2023. On that day, he was sworn into law enforcement by Fargo Police Chief Dave Zibolski and his badge was pinned onto him by his father, Jeff,” the statement said. “Jake was in field training with the FPD at the time of his death. When asked to describe his interest in law enforcement, Jake stated that being an FPD Officer was an exciting opportunity to truly make a difference in this community. Officer Wallin was 23 years old.”
3. Mohamad Barakat Had No Significant Social Media Presence, But Searched Mass Shooting Events Online, the AG Says
Barakat had no significant social media presence, according to Wrigley.
“We don’t at this moment see additional threat emanating out of this incident,” he said.
Barakat’s internet searches covered such topics as “mass shooting events” and “explosive ammo” and “kill fast” and “incendiary rounds.”
“How to, I guess,” Wrigley said, accusing Barakat about searching out other events as a copycat. He was looking into areas where there were crowds, he added. On the evening of July 13, he searched out thousands enjoying downtown Fargo street fair, Wrigley said.
Fargo police also gave information about the injured officers.
“Fargo Police Officer Andrew Dotas is a six-year FPD team member. Dotas serves as an FPD Training Officer, a member of the Crowd Management Team, Red River Valley SWAT Negotiations Team and a department Motorcycle Officer. Dotas is also a member of the North Dakota Air National Guard,” they wrote.
Fargo Police Officer Tyler Hawes “was Wallin’s classmate in FPD Academy IV, becoming an FPD Officer on April 19, 2023; he is currently completing FPD field training. Hawes attended the University of Minnesota-Morris and graduated with a degree in Psychology,” the release said.
“Prior to joining FPD, he worked as a Corrections Officer. Dotas and Hawes sustained gunshot wounds and are currently in critical stable conditions with serious injuries at a local healthcare facility,” the release said.
4. Mohamad Barakat Was Shot to Death by Jake Wallin’s Training Officer, Police Say
Barakat was shot to death by Fargo Police Officer Zachary Robinson, the Fargo police statement said.
“Barakat, a 37-year-old Fargo resident, was transported from the scene to a local healthcare facility where he later died,” it says.
Robinson, an officer for seven years, “was serving as Wallin’s Training Officer at the time of the incident. Robinson has been placed on paid administrative leave while the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NDBCI) conducts an investigation into the use of force,” the release says.
“The Fargo Police Department’s standard operating procedure is to place officers involved in officer-involved shootings on administrative leave until the investigation into the use of force has been completed.”
5. The Police Chief Called Mohamad Barakat’s Actions ‘a Heinous & Unthinkable Act of Aggression’
A 25-year-old female Fargo resident “was also shot during the critical incident. She was transported from the scene to a local healthcare facility with serious injuries,” police wrote in the statement.
“The events of the last 24 hours have been among the most difficult in our department’s nearly 150-year history. This was a heinous and unthinkable act of aggression against our officers and the entire metro community,” Zibolski said in the statement.
“As we all try to comprehend what has transpired and mourn the impact on our team and the entire community, we are bracing for extremely difficult days ahead. We know that we are joined by our metro community in this process and that brings comfort to all of us,” Zibolski added. “Our hearts are heavy, but I can assure you that we never take your support for granted; we can profoundly feel the fabric of this community in your actions, words of encouragement and acts of kindness. Together, we are and will remain the guardians of our Fargo community.”
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