Out­cry fol­lows re­lease of Utah po­lice shoot­ing video

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - THE WEST - By Lindsay White­hurst

SALT LAKE CITY — Anti-po­lice bru­tal­ity groups in Utah are livid after a prose­cu­tor this week de­ter­mined po­lice were legally jus­ti­fied in a fa­tal shoot­ing of a black man in Au­gust that was cap­tured on body cam­era video re­leased this week.

While one video ap­pears to show the vic­tim, Pa­trick Har­mon, 50, shot from be­hind as he ran from po­lice, a slowed-down ver­sion shows he piv­oted to­ward of­fi­cers with a knife, Salt Lake County District At­tor­ney Sim Gill said Fri­day.

Of­fi­cer Clin­ton Fox told in­ves­ti­ga­tors Har­mon threat­ened to stab him be­fore he fired the fa­tal shots. Body cam­era video shows Fox shot Har­mon at close range after Fox yells, “I’ll (ex­ple­tive) shoot you.”

Lex Scott, an or­ga­nizer with Black Lives Mat­ter in Utah, said the com­mu­nity is livid over the footage and wants the district at­tor­ney to re­sign. The Har­mon fam­ily, which lives in Colorado and St. Louis, is “shell shocked,” Scott said.

“You can’t watch that video and not re­al­ize it is a clear case of mur­der,” Scott said. “It is one of the clear­est cases of mur­der we’ve ever seen.”

African Amer­i­cans make up about 2 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion in Utah yet are over-rep­re­sented in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, Scott said.

About 50 pro­test­ers ral­lied in front of the Salt Lake City po­lice build­ing last week­end, in­clud­ing mem­bers of Har­mon’s fam­ily, de­mand­ing po­lice re­lease the footage. They did that this week after Gill’s rul­ing.

The shoot­ing comes amid an in­tense de­bate through­out the United States about race and polic­ing fol­low­ing the fa­tal shoot­ing of many black vic­tims.

In 2014, po­lice in Saratoga Springs, Utah, shot and killed Dar­rien Hunt, 22, after re­ceiv­ing re­ports of a man with a sa­mu­rai sword. The Utah County at­tor­ney’s of­fice ruled the two of­fi­cers in­volved were jus­ti­fied in shoot­ing Hunt be­cause they feared for their lives and the lives of oth­ers.

Hunt’s fam­ily said the shoot­ing was racially mo­ti­vated. Hunt was black; the of­fi­cers who shot him were white. He was wield­ing the sword as part of a Ja­panese anime cos­tume.

Har­mon was shot and killed on Aug. 13, after an of­fi­cer saw him ride his bi­cy­cle across all six lanes of traf­fic and a me­dian on a down­town Salt Lake City street.

He was stopped be­cause he didn’t have a re­quired red rear tail­light on his bi­cy­cle, ac­cord­ing to the district at­tor­ney’s re­port. Po­lice say that Har­mon gave “a cou­ple” of dif­fer­ent names and even­tu­ally they found war­rants for felonies in­clud­ing ag­gra­vated as­sault.

As they put him in hand­cuffs, Har­mon pleaded with them not to take him to jail.

The video shows a dis­traught-look­ing Har­mon peace­fully putting his hands be­hind his back, then sud­denly break­ing into a run. The video from Fox’s body cam­era is dif­fi­cult to de­ci­pher as the of­fi­cer ran.

Fox said that as he chased him, Har­mon sud­denly turned and pulled out a knife and threat­ened to stab him. Nei­ther that state­ment nor an ob­vi­ously vis­i­ble knife are cap­tured on the video. But two other of­fi­cers at the scene re­ported hear­ing Har­mon say he would cut or stab the of­fi­cers and a knife was found near Har­mon’s body.

“Of­fi­cer Fox said he was ter­ri­fied by how close Mr. Har­mon was to the of­fi­cers when Mr. Har­mon stopped and turned to­ward them,” the district at­tor­ney re­port on the shoot­ing states. “Of­fi­cer Fox said that in 10 years of law en­force­ment and two mil­i­tary de­ploy­ments, it was the scari­est sit­u­a­tion he had ever been in.”

The re­port also in­cludes stills from the video and an im­age of a knife found at the scene.

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