Official portraits of Fargo, N.D., police officers involved in a shooting a day earlier are displayed during a news conference, Saturday, July 15, at Fargo City Hall. Officer Jake Wallin, far left, was fatally shot. Officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes were both critically injured. Officer Zachary Robinson, who killed the suspect and is on paid administrative leave, is also pictured. Authorities have said a civilian was also injured. (AP Photo/Ann Arbor Miller )
A man armed with 1,800 rounds of ammunition, a grenade and other explosives in his car unleashed a “murderous barrage of fire” as he ambushed officers who were investigating a routine crash, killing one and wounding two before a fourth stopped him and thwarted what authorities described as plans for further mayhem, officials said Wednesday.
Mohamad Barakat, 37, shot Officers Jake Wallin, Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes from inside his car on Friday, from about 15 to 20 feet away, before they could even reach for their guns, North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley said at a news conference. Wallin was killed while Dotas and Hawes remain hospitalized in critical condition. Wrigley said Barakat also shot and injured a bystander, who was trying to run away when she was hit twice.
But Officer Zach Robinson, who just happened to be nearby, “disabled” Barakat’s .223 -caliber rifle with a difficult shot from his own 9 mm handgun from about 75 feet (22.86 meters) away. Wrigley said Barakat — who was on the ground — then picked up a handgun and waved it around. As Robinson moved closer, he ordered Barakat to drop the gun 16 times, then killed him in a confrontation that lasted about two minutes, Wrigley said.
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“In the wake of Mohamad Barakat’s murderous, unprovoked attack, Officer Zach Robinson’s use of deadly force was reasonable, it was necessary, it was justified, and in all ways, it was lawful,” Wrigley told reporters. “Mohamad Barakat engaged in a savage attack. … He unleashed what can only be described fairly as a murderous barrage of fire. But that isn’t to say it wasn’t precise. In fact, it was.”
Investigators found 1,800 rounds of ammunition, three long guns, four handguns, numerous ammo magazines, explosives, canisters with gasoline and a homemade hand grenade in Barakat’s car, he said. Officials released a photograph showing that eight of the magazines bore American flag stickers or decals.
Wrigley said Barakat also had a “shooting vest” that wasn’t bulletproof, but had magazines in every pocket, and he had a suitcase of weapons, which he had rolled out of his apartment right before getting into his car. There was no mention of whether Barakat had any protective gear.
“When you look at the amount of ammunition this shooter had in his car, he was planning on more mayhem in our community,” Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said. Police Chief David Zibolski said Barakat’s target was unknown.
Wrigley provided the most detailed account yet that authorities have given about what happened during the gunfight. He said investigators are still trying to determine a motive for the attack on police but promised more details on the investigation at a news conference planned for Friday.
Wrigley said video evidence shows Barakat drove around and was nonchalant before opening fire.
“He’s casing the place up and stalking his way in and sizing up his opportunity and then parks there and spends minutes watching the officers and waits until they are literally walking,” Wrigley said. “That’s when he lifts his firearm out the window and begins firing. It was an absolute ambush. There’s no other way to describe that.”
Wrigley said Robinson displayed “absolute courage under fire” as he moved away from the cover of his vehicle and exchanged fire with Barakat, including a shot that “incapacitated” the suspect’s rifle — leaving roughly 20 rounds unused that could have been fired at other people. Robinson called in for help, and as he started approaching Barakat, he saw his colleagues were shot.
“He said, ‘We have three officers down. Send everybody,’” Wrigley said. “And send everybody they did.”
At some point Barakat was wounded, and was down on the ground, but he rearmed himself with a 9 mm handgun that he kept waving around, protected by his car, Wrigley said. Barakat continued to disobey Robinson’s repeated commands to drop his gun. Robinson continued to move in and gave him one final command.
“’Put down the gun,’ He does not. And the threat was neutralized by the officer,” the attorney general said.
Shortly after the shooting, authorities, including the FBI, converged on a residential area about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) away and evacuated residents of an apartment building to gather what they said was related evidence. Wrigley said Wednesday that authorities found more firearms at the apartment.
The state Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the FBI are still investigating.
The funeral service for Wallin, 23, is set for Saturday morning in Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, according to an obituary. A private service will follow graveside at a cemetery in Nisswa, Minnesota.
Wallin served in the Minnesota Army National Guard and was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq from November 2020 to July 2021. He and Hawes were sworn in less than three months ago and were still in training when they responded to Friday’s crash.
Governors of Minnesota and North Dakota have directed U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of Wallin through sunset on Saturday, and encouraged residents and businesses to do the same.