SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A small band of protesters calling for an end to police brutality and the resignation of a Utah prosecutor demonstrated in Salt Lake City on Tuesday night after two officers were cleared in the shooting of a teenager.
About 25 members of Utah Against Police Brutality and other activist groups stood on the downtown city hall steps holding signs that said "Disarm the Police" and renewing a call for officials to release police body camera footage from the Feb. 27 shooting.
"Ultimately, we believe that our public officials and the city and county levels have failed to pursue justice," said Stephen Michael Christian, a member of Utah Against Police Brutality. The group held similar protests over the past few months where marchers blocked traffic and condemned police violence in Utah and around the country, but Tuesday night's gathering was small and peaceful.
About 50 feet away, four police officers on bicycles kept an eye on the group as protesters took turns on a microphone, quoting Martin Luther King Jr. and chanting "Release the footage!"
The Salt Lake City shooting occurred as police said they stumbled upon a fight between the teenager, a Somali refugee, and a man over $1.10 from a failed drug buy near the city's crowded homeless shelter.
The two officers shot then 17-year-old Abdullahi "Abdi" Mohamed four times, sending him into a coma that nearly killed him. He survived but his health condition Tuesday was not known.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill cleared the two officers of any wrongdoing Monday, saying they acted appropriately because they believed Mohamed was about to seriously injure or kill the man with a metal broom stick. Gill also announced he was charging Mohamed, who is now 18, with aggravated robbery and possessing drugs with intent to distribute.
Mohamed was charged as a juvenile and is expected to make his first court appearance Wednesday, but Gill said he wants to charge the teen as an adult.
Mohamed's attorney, Alicia Memmott, had no comment Monday and did not respond to message on Tuesday.
Mohamed came to the U.S. with his family in 2004 from a refugee camp in Kenya, his cousin Muslima Weledi said. Court records show he started getting in trouble with police at age 12 and spent time in juvenile detention centers for theft, trespassing and assault.
His family has disputed accounts that he was brutally attacking the man. Weledi has said that witnesses told her Mohamed had a wooden broomstick and misunderstood police commands to drop the stick.
The shooting became another flashpoint in the nation's discussion about the use of force by police against minorities.
Gill said he was methodical and brought in an outside expert on police use of force because of the public outcry. He said he will not release the police body camera footage because it's evidence in the case against the teenager.
"I think we should question our public institutions. That's absolutely what a healthy democracy should do," Gill said Tuesday, when asked about the protest. He said he invites the demonstrators to sit down and talk with him.
Associated Press writer Brady McCombs contributed to this report.