SALT LAKE CITY — Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, 22, stumbled twice as he tried to run from police officers — while still carrying a gun — before he was shot in the back and killed.
On Friday, Salt Lake police released three videos from body cameras worn by officers who were on scene when Palacios was shot. At least 20 shots can be heard, all fired from close range. Two officers have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by Unified police.
Members of Palacios’ family, who have been calling on social media for the release of body camera video believing that the shooting was not justified, met with police officials privately Friday to view the video before it was released to the public.
After watching the videos, they say the videos only strengthen their arguments.
“We want to get justice for him because he could still be alive. He could still be here. What they did, it wasn’t right. After watching the videos, it wasn’t right,” said Karina Palacios, a sister of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal.
“He was running the whole time. He was never confrontational. They could have tased him. They could have easily tased him,” added Freddie Palacios, a brother.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall gave a brief statement about an hour after police publicly released the videos, saying that while she cannot give more of her opinion because of due process for both the officers and Palacios’ family, “As a sister and a mother, what I saw in this video is genuinely disturbing and upsetting.”
The family is now calling for “justice,” which to them means that the officers should face criminal charges.
“We want them behind bars for what they did,” said Josh Palacios, a cousin.
In his own statement, Police Chief Mike Brown asked the residents of Salt Lake City “to remain calm” and let the independent review of the shooting take place.
“We hear you. We want to discuss this. But I’m asking for the city to remain calm,” he said.
About 2:10 a.m. on May 23, police were called to a report of someone making “threats with a weapon,” said Salt Lake Police. Capt. Richard Lewis.
Officers arrived in the area of the Utah Village Motel, 271 W. 900 South, which is adjacent to the Trails Gentleman’s Club. In the video, officers spot a man in the parking lot who immediately takes off running.
As officers chase after him with guns drawn, one officer yells over his police radio, “He’s got a gun in his pocket. He’s reaching in his right (inaudible) ...”
Officers chased him through an alley across 900 South. They yelled at him 17 times to either “stop,” “show me your hands,” or “drop it,” referring to a gun, Lewis said.
As Palacios reached the parking lot of Granary Storage, he stumbled and fell, got up, then fell again as police closed in.
“Tase him, tase him, tase him!” an officer is heard yelling three times.
Instead, just moments later after Palacios gets up a third time, a barrage of gunshots is heard.
Palacios falls to the ground as police continue to yell at him, “Show your hands!”
“And they were asking him to put his hands up when he was already on the ground,” Karina Palacios said in disbelief.
“When he was already being shot on the ground,” Freddie Palacios added. “And how are you going to ask someone who has been shot that many times to put your …” he said as his voice trailed off.
It does not appear in the videos that Palacios ever pointed a gun at police nor did he fire any shots. However, police say a gun that Palacios was believed to be carrying was recovered from the scene.
On Salt Lake City’s daily police log, which highlights some criminal events from the night before, an aggravated robbery was reported at the gentleman’s club at 1:55 a.m. on May 23, about 10 minutes before police were called.
“The victim went toward the dumpsters on the east side of the parking lot ... when he was approached by two males whom he had seen inside the club earlier on in the night,” according to the watch log. “Both males had guns and told the victim to empty out his pockets. Once they took his money and wallet, the victim fled the scene.”
The victim in that case, Alvaro, who asked that only his first name be used, told the Deseret News that Palacios was one of the men who robbed him at gunpoint.
But Palacios’ family said there’s no way officers at the scene would have known that he was a suspect in that robbery.
“There are ways to de-escalate a situation — Tasers, rubber bullets, K-9s. Especially when they show up on scene and they don’t know if that person is who they were even there for, just because a person took off running. Where did they get their facts for that? I mean, if I see a cop I’m going to run because I’m scared, especially now. Like, I don’t want that happening to me,” Freddie Palacios said.
Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal was also on probation after being convicted of robbery in October. Family and friends have stated on social media that his past history is not relevant to what happened to him on May 23, as officers did not have any idea who they were chasing.
A GoFundMe page was set up to help the Palacios family pay for funeral expenses.
After a week of demonstrations in Salt Lake City protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and calling for an end to police brutality, Palacios’ family believes the video will refuel the flames.
“People are going to be angry,” Freddie Palacios said. “That’s my brother. You guys have kids, sons, nephews. It could have happened to anybody. This isn’t right. This isn’t right.”
Brown read a very brief statement following the officer-involved shooting press conference, without directly addressing the incident itself.
“I believe with all my heart, the Salt Lake City Police Department has the best officers in the country. I trust our training. I trust in the investigative process that we have in place to address officer-involved critical incidents. Most importantly, I trust our officers,” he said.
Mendenhall apologized to the family for their loss.
“No one should go through what you’re experiencing right now and no words make up for the loss which you have experienced,” she said. “I urge expediency in this process so that everyone can get the answers that they deserve in a timely manner. Transparency and direct accountability is being demanded of police departments across this nation and I will always demand it of ours, as I know that they demand if of themselves.
After a week of protests around the nation, Mendenhall said she understands the outrage from members of the community,
“I know that I haven’t walked in your shoes, but I will walk with you, adhere, and I accept the work that is being asked of us,” she said. “We must channel our collective anger into process of progress and change.”
Gov. Gary Herbert weighed in on Twitter, calling for investigators to be “thorough, transparent, swift and just” in reviewing the shooting death.
“Due process is expected. Until all the facts are in we will not comment substantively on this ongoing investigation. We will, however, always decry disproportionate use of force. If there are findings of misconduct, we expect full accountability,” he said.
Some have questioned online why the body camera video was not released sooner. Under a law created by former Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, the Salt Lake City Police Department has to publicly release body camera video from an officer-involved critical incident to the public within 10 business days. Friday’s videos were released after nine days.
Contributing: Paul Nelson