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Utah Police Officer Who Killed African-American Will Not Face Charges

The fatal shooting of Patrick Harmon was filmed on police officers' body cameras. This still image of Harmon comes from that footage. (SLCPD body-cam capture)

A police officer in Utah won’t face charges for the Aug. 13 fatal shooting of Patrick Harmon, a 50-year-old black man who had been pulled over for riding a bicycle without a rear light. [Some sources quoted police as saying he had also ridden across six lanes of traffic and a median on a downtown Salt Lake City street.]

After officers found Harmon had an open arrest warrant, they informed him he was under arrest. The incident was caught on body cameras, which show Harmon attempting to flee the scene after he learned he was being arrested. As Harmon fled, Officer Clinton Fox fired three shots at him from behind. Before firing the shots, Fox had yelled, “I’ll [expletive] shoot you!”

According to The Guardian, prosecutors in Salt Lake City claim the killing of Harmon was legal because the officers feared for their lives, even though the body camera videos shows Harmon running away from them. Sim Gill, district attorney of Salt Lake County, said Harmon threatened the officers by saying “I’ll cut you” and brandishing a knife as he was running. The video shows no evidence of this alleged behavior.

The footage shows Harmon groaning on the ground and losing blood after the shooting, as the officers try to handcuff him. One of the officers says, “Stay with us. Hey, Patrick. Stay with us.” Harmon was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The Guardian writes:

Police said they found a knife near where Harmon had fallen after being shot, which is visible on video in the moments after the shooting. Gill’s office released still images from the videos that it said showed Harmon pivoting back toward police.

Gill acknowledged that the videos did not fully corroborate the officers’ accounts, saying that body camera footage doesn’t always capture what an officer sees.

“I wish everything was properly framed in ultra 4000HD so we could have it, but that’s not the luxury I have,” he said.

The Guardian also describes common features in deaths resulting from police violence:

Harmon is one of 748 people who have been killed in interactions with the police this year, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. Mental illness played a role in one out of every five incidents, The Post has found. Harmon’s shooting joins a litany of others captured on video and released to the public, in what has become a grim facet of the modern news cycle. It is rare for officers to face charges and rarer still for them to be convicted, due in large part to the dangers they face and requirements of their jobs.

The Washington Post says:

Jeanetta Williams, the president of the NAACP’s Salt Lake City branch, said that Rio Grande, the district where Harmon was killed, has been the subject of a recent effort to get a large homeless population off the streets and tamp down on issues like drug dealing.

“I know the Salt Lake police department has been working on de-escalation and they said they tried to do de-escalation in this case but it seems like it wasn’t enough,” she said in a phone interview. “By looking at the video you would think they could have apprehended him in some other way.”

Antoinette Harmon, the victim’s sister, told The Guardian that the family had not seen Patrick Harmon for several years. She gave her opinion of the shooting and the exoneration. “The police are going to stick together no matter if it’s wrong or right,” she said. “They don’t care about black lives.”

“They just murdered him flat out,” said Harmon’s niece, Alisha Shaw. “They are lying. There is no way they were threatened by anything. He was only trying to get away.”

 

Emily Wells
​Emily Wells is an Ear to the Ground blogger at Truthdig. As a journalist, she began as a crime reporter at the Pulitzer-winning daily newspaper, The Press-Enterprise...
Emily Wells

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