A teenager remains in a coma after he was shot multiple times on Saturday night by police during a fight in downtown Salt Lake City, according to authorities.
Police told the Salt Lake Tribune that Abdi Mohamed was struck by three bullets in his upper and lower torso. He was listed in critical condition on Sunday, the paper reported.
What prompted police to open fire on the 17-year-old is a matter of dispute.
Witnesses told police that Mohamed was involved in a fight with another man, prompting two officers to respond to the scene.
“I don’t have much details on the shooting itself,” Detective Greg Wilking of the Salt Lake City Police Department told Fox affiliate KSTU. “That’s what it sounds like: There was an altercation taking place, and our officers intervened into that altercation.”
But Selam Mohammed, who was near Mohamed at the time of the shooting, told KSTU that Mohamed had picked up a broken broomstick moments before police arrived. Whether officers believed the teenager was going to attack them with the object remains unclear.
“The police said, ‘Drop it,’ once, then they shot him four times,” Selam Mohammed recalled. “We were trying to break it up before the police even came, but the police ran in on foot and pulled their guns out already. They already had them, like, as soon as he was running he was already grabbing for his gun, not even trying to Tase him or anything.”
The shooting unleashed protests in downtown Salt Lake City, with demonstrators gathering near the scene to shout at police and throw rocks at officers, according to Reuters. Wilking told the Tribune that some officers were injured by flying objects and that police responded with pepper spray and Tasers. Nearly 100 officers — some carrying riot shields — were at the scene, he said.
There were “a lot of hostile people upset about what had taken place,” Wilking noted.
Family members told KTSU that Mohamed, a native of Kenya, had lived in Utah for the past decade and had a son. They described him as a nonviolent person.
“He was a really caring, good, loving boyfriend and a really good, caring, loving father. I know what he was doing every day, the things he would do for us…. He just wanted to make sure we were loved, and we were happy he put us in front of everything,” girlfriend Becca Monson told KTSU.
She added that she hopes people don’t jump to conclusions about his personality.
“I’m really angry and really sad. I just want to see him, honestly. I just want to see him and make sure he knows that he is loved and there are people out here that care about him and there are people that want to see him do good,” she said.