Judge dismisses suit in fatal Salt Lake City police shooting

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a Utah man who was shot at nearly 30 times and killed as he ran away from Salt Lake City police in 2020.

U.S. District Judge David Barlow ruled that the civil rights of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, 22, were not violated when he was shot and killed by Officers Neil Iversen and Kevin Fortuna, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Friday.

The judge dismissed the lawsuit on Monday. Palacios-Carbajal's family filed the civil suit against the officers and police Chief Mike Brown in September 2020, alleging the officers engaged in “gratuitous violence” by repeatedly shooting at him after he was already on the ground and incapacitated.

Palacios-Carbajal was struck 13 to 15 times in May 2020 as he ran away from officers who were investigating a gun-threat call and yelled for him to drop a gun, according to prosecutors.

District Attorney Sam Gill later ruled the use of force was justified because Palacios-Carbajal had repeatedly dropped and picked up a handgun while running away. Gill said he was unable to pursue prosecution because the law protects officers if they fear that they or someone else are at risk. That decision prompted street protests in Salt Lake City.

The family's attorney, Nathan Morris, said his clients were “struggling" with the judge's decision and were considering whether to appeal.

Court documents filed Monday said the two officers had heard that Palacios-Carbajal had threatened multiple people with a gun and "reasonably believed that Mr. Palacios was an immediate threat to their safety and to any member of the public he might encounter during the chase.”

City police Chief Mike Brown said in a statement after the judge's ruling that the "loss of life is tragic. As police officers, we are charged with the duty to protect our community and each other and in this case, that is exactly what happened.”