SALT LAKE CITY — As hundreds gathered in protest at the Utah Capitol on a blustery Friday evening, a smaller group assembled at the corner of 900 South and 300 West in Salt Lake City, steps away from where Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal was shot to death by police two weeks ago.
At the northeast corner of the intersection, flowers, candles and fliers covered the stoplight. Emotions were raw as Salt Lake police released body camera footage just hours earlier depicting Palacios-Carbajal’s death.
The footage was called “genuinely disturbing and upsetting” by Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall; Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said the state will “always decry disproportionate use of force” but cautioned of the need for due process and all the facts.
Friends of Palacios-Carbajal, though, called for repercussions for the police involved.
“From what I can see in that footage,” said friend Sofia Alcalá, “they deserve, at the very least, to be fired.”
Alcalá described Palacios-Carbajal as a kind, caring and loyal friend to whom family meant everything. “He was just a good person,” she said.
When she saw the body camera footage, Alcalá said she felt sick to her stomach.
“I couldn’t stop crying,” she said. “I was so angry. And then I told myself, there’s no time for me to mourn. I have to get out, and I have to fight for him and his family, because they are the ones that get to mourn right now. Everyone else needs to fight, needs to fight for the family and fight for Bernardo’s justice.”
A man who identified himself only as Armando said he’d been best friends with Palacios-Carbajal since the seventh grade. “He was running away,” Armando said of the footage. “They shot him in the back.
“This is not going to stop until there’s justice, until the cops are sent to court and the judge decides what happens,” Armando said. “But we need those cops to go to court, just how everybody goes to court for killing somebody.”
The protest began with a vigil at the intersection and then moved downtown to the corner of 400 South and 300 East, where demonstrators demanded justice from the police officers blocking off the road nearby, held signs for passing traffic and posted flyers.
“He should have been treated like a white man: Chased down, arrested and with a fair trial,” the flyer read in part. “Instead they gunned him down and executed him.”
Nolan Powe found out about Palacios-Carbajal’s death Friday evening. His voice was hoarse after days of protesting the death of George Floyd at Washington Square Park and the Utah Capitol Building. Still, when he heard about Palacios-Carbajal, he felt he had to continue.
“If they can stand for George Floyd,” he said of his fellow protesters, “I can stand for Bernardo.”
Up at the Utah Capitol building, it was apparent that more people are becoming aware and invested in Palacios-Carbajal’s case as well. Several people held signs reading “Justice for Bernardo,” which were first sighted at the downtown Salt Lake protest on Saturday.
One such man, identified only as Christian, explained he had just learned of the shooting and watched the video that day.
“When I saw the video, from the moment that I saw that after they did about four, five rounds it was just like, is that necessary to keep going?” he asked. “It made me wonder what was it that made them think that they can keep shooting at somebody that was already on the ground?
“Doesn’t really matter what he was running for. … That was just not necessary.”
Christian also questioned the use of lethal force exhibited in the shooting: “Why couldn’t they just tackle him down; you know, we see them already shoot pellets at people here in the crowd, so why couldn’t they do something like that? Why did it have to be bullets?”
Palacios-Carbajal’s family has likewise criticized police for not utilizing de-escalating measures such as tasers, rubber bullets or K-9s.
When asked if the video changed his mind about local police, Christian discussed his Mexican heritage and the way it impacted his every interaction with police.
“They feel like because you’re of a different race, they have to have more back up. Every single time that I’ve been pulled over, if I’m with my sister who’s much darker complexion than I am, I swear we end up getting two more cops coming up behind us. It can be for speeding, it can be just for a traffic incident, but it makes you nervous, like, ‘Why so many for such a small incident?’”
Palacios-Carbajal's family has started a GoFundMe* to assist with the man's funeral and burial expenses.
*KSL.com does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.