September 2, 2016
By Alex Dobuzinskis
(Reuters) – A Salt Lake City civilian review board said in a report on Friday that two white police officers who shot and wounded a black teenager acted outside their department’s policy on use of force.
The finding by the Police Civilian Review Board will be considered by the police chief, who has the authority to determine what discipline, if any, the officers should face.
The shooting of the 17-year-old boy on Feb. 27 triggered an angry reaction when onlookers hurled rocks and bottles at police.
It came as police departments across the United States face increased scrutiny over allegations of excessive force against black people and other minority groups.
Authorities have said the teenager attacked a man with a metal mop handle and the two officers opened fire on him after he refused to drop the weapon.
The review board said in its 16-page report the officers could not tell during the nighttime confrontation the pole was hollow, and therefore less dangerous, and they had reason to fear for the man’s safety.
But the report also said video contradicts statements by the officers that the teenager was raising the pole to strike the man again.
Instead, the teenager striding forward resulted in the pipe “being raised and lowered as his hands moved in a normal manner,” the report stated.
It also said the man whom the teenager was attacking had not shown any great fright and there was “no increased urgency” evident when police opened fire, although the boy had ignored commands to drop the weapon.
“As to the allegation (the officers) used ‘deadly force’ in this incident, the panel makes a finding that their actions were ‘not within’ policy,” the report said.
The two officers, who were placed on leave, were identified as Kory Checketts and Jordan Winegar.
A representative from the Salt Lake Police Association could not be reached for comment.
The possibility of criminal charges against the officers was taken off the table last month by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who found they were justified in opening fire to defend the man.
The teenager, Somali refugee Abdullahi “Abdi” Mohamed who is now 18, was charged last month with aggravated robbery and drug possession with intent to distribute, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
He is accused of assaulting the man after a dispute about a drug buy, according to the newspaper.
Mohamed’s attorney could not be reached.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Robert Birsel)