The ACLU of Utah joins Salt Lake City community members – particularly members of the community living in and around the Rio Grande neighborhood of downtown Salt Lake City – in calling for a full investigation of the recent shooting of 17-year-old Abdi Muhamed.
We urge Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Interim Police Chief Mike Brown to act swiftly, openly, and objectively in gathering all of the facts behind this most recent officer-involved incident. We hope that Abdi and his family will be treated fairly and compassionately as all the facts of this incident are sorted out.
Victims of officer-involved shootings in Utah, unfortunately, are often treated as threats to public safety before any investigation is conducted to verify that assessment. We hope this will not be the case for Abdi Muhamed and his family.
While the ACLU of Utah condemns violence and encourages peaceful demonstrations against government actions, we understand why community members felt anger in response to the shooting of Abdi Muhamed. That there would be brief unrest in response to such an incident was fairly predictable.
Too many individuals have been hurt or killed in recent years by Salt Lake City police officers, as well as by law enforcement in other Utah jurisdictions. It is completely appropriate to demand that our government representatives – especially those who are armed and given vast discretion in dealing with the public – act with the utmost care and responsibility, even when they feel threatened. We also rightly expect law enforcement leaders to react to these incidents in a proactive, non-defensive manner that ensures objectivity and fairness to all involved.
Under our Constitution, police are only allowed to use that force which is reasonable under the circumstances. In many instances, this will mean no physical force at all. When officers cross the line, there should be transparency and accountability. We believe that when police view themselves as guardians of the communities they serve and not warriors in a never-ending battle against crime, incidents like this will become less common.
The public also has a right to know what happened in a critical incident like this one. Friends, family, and neighbors of a person who is shot by police deserve the full story, and all residents of Salt Lake City deserve to know how police, who act in their name, came to use force against Abdi Muhamed.
If the SLCPD finds the shooting justified, the public deserves to know exactly why, so we can understand whether the policies on use of force match the public’s expectations and whether the process for investigation and accountability is working. If the SLCDC finds the shooting not justified, the public deserves to know how the SLCPD will ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
Utah has seen many people killed at the hands of law enforcement in the past several years, including Dillon Taylor, Darrien Hunt, James Barker, Danielle Willard, Corey Kanosh, Ty Worthington, Joey Tucker, Todd Blair, Troy Burkinshaw, Jeff Nielson, Brian Wood, and more. Their deaths have placed the issue of law enforcement use of force in the spotlight, again and again highlighting the continuing need for meaningful action to encourage de-escalation and to constrain use of deadly force in our neighborhoods.