Dramatic video footage shows shooting ambush in Fargo that killed an officer last month
Aug 17, 2023, 7:41 AM | Updated: 12:24 pm
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Dramatic body camera footage of a shooting ambush last month in Fargo shows the surprise nature of the chaotic attack along a busy street that left one police officer dead and others wounded, as the only officer left standing called for help and engaged the heavily armed shooter.
North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley and Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski on Thursday presented the July 14 video footage taken from Officer Zach Robinson’s body camera of the attack that left North Dakota’s biggest city shocked at the unusual violence.
The scenes show gunman Mohamad Barakat shooting rapid fire from a .223-caliber rifle, modified with a binary trigger, that took down three officers before a breathless Robinson stopped him after a nearly 2-minute confrontation.
The video also illustrates what authorities have said was likely part of a planned, larger attack, with an arsenal of guns and explosives found in Barakat’s vehicle.
The attack began as the four officers were responding to a routine traffic crash. Gunfire erupted as three of them were standing or walking near Barakat’s vehicle in a lot. Barakat was not part of the crash, and he came upon the scene by happenstance, using it as an opportunity to stage an attack, Wrigley has said.
Robinson takes cover behind a vehicle in the road and tells dispatchers that “a man with an AK-47” is “shooting at us,” before another barrage of gunfire erupts.
Robinson returns fire, striking Barakat, who moves around on the ground next to his vehicle. Wrigley previously said Robinson shot and disabled Barakat’s rifle, though the gunman then waved around a handgun, one of two he had on him.
Video shows Barakat continuing to move around on the ground as sirens wail and Robinson calls for him to put his hands up and drop the gun, then shoots at him. Wrigley said Robinson fired 31 rounds, 21 striking Barakat and ultimately killing him and preventing what authorities said could have been a much bigger attack with summer festivities occurring in the area at the time.
Barakat, 37, shot and killed Fargo Police Officer Jake Wallin, 23, and wounded officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes, authorities said. Barakat also wounded a bystander, Karlee Koswick, who was involved in the fender bender, as she tried to flee.
Wallin was able to near Barakat’s vehicle, unholster his gun and fire one round before Barakat struck him with a single round, Wrigley said.
Neither Dotas nor Hawes saw the attack coming, Wrigley said. Dotas was hit with multiple rounds, and struggled to his feet at one point but went back down, Wrigley said.
Hawes also was hit multiple times, shot through his right arm and unable to stand up to walk, but crawled to Dotas’ side, “to be at his side, to be holding his hand, to be calling his name, to be willing him to live,” Wrigley said.
Video shows the three officers lying motionless on the ground as Robinson nears Barakat’s vehicle.
Wrigley and Zibolski commended Robinson’s composure and training in his actions in the shootout, such as reloading after his gun emptied and changing positions around Barakat’s vehicle.
“A very chaotic situation, a very tremendous job on his part,” Zibolski said.
Wrigley last month said Robinson’s use of deadly force “was reasonable, it was necessary, it was justified, and in all ways, it was lawful.”
The Fargo Police Department found no use of force violations in Robinson’s actions in the shooting, Deputy Chief Joe Anderson said. Robinson is back on the job.
Police are conducting a training review of the entire incident, including the officer response in the aftermath, he said.
The shooting investigation remains active and is “proceeding to its logical conclusion,” Wrigley said. Investigators are awaiting information from FBI interviews as well as firearms testing to ensure Barakat’s weapons aren’t connected to other illegal activity, the attorney general said.
Authorities will eventually release video footage from the other officers’ body cameras, but “there is a very significant amount of distress going on, life-saving care being provided” in the recordings, Wrigley said.
After the shooting, investigators found numerous guns, 1,800 rounds of ammunition, a homemade grenade and explosives in Barakat’s vehicle.
However, authorities had no new information Thursday as to what was Barakat’s motive.
Authorities have said Barakat’s internet queries over the past five years included “kill fast,” “explosive ammo,” “incendiary rounds,” “mass shooting events,” and one for “area events where there are crowds,” which brought up a news article with the headline, ”Thousands enjoy first day of Downtown Fargo Street Fair,” a day before the shooting.
Police visited Barakat’s home and interviewed him at least twice in recent years due to concerns related to his guns, though authorities say he appeared to have acquired the weapons legally.
Barakat was a Syrian national who came to the U.S. on an asylum request in 2012 and became a U.S. citizen in 2019, Wrigley has said.
Dotas and Hawes recovered enough to leave the hospital earlier this month. Koswick left the hospital about a month ago.