Police in Salt Lake City, Utah, shot 50-year-old black man Patrick Harmon in the back multiple times, killing him, on August 13, and the whole slaying was recorded on multiple videos that have now been made public by the city. But despite the recordings of police firing on Harmon as he fled in fear, the officer who fired the fatal bullets will face no charges, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced on Thursday, according to a report in the Salt Lake City Tribune newspaper.
The D.A. ruled that the officers, including Officer Clinton Fox, who actually fired the fatal shots, were justified in killing Harmon because they “feared for their lives” — despite the fact that the videos clearly show Harmon running away from the officers with his back turned when they shoot and kill him. Harmon was pulled over by police for riding a bicycle without a tail light.
Before firing, one officer can be heard yelling at the fleeing Harmon, “I’ll f****** shoot you!”
Over the course of his conversation with the officers that can be heard on the videos — which may be viewed below in this article — Harmon can be heard nervously informing the officers that when they run his name in their database, they will find that he has an outstanding warrant.
— Matt Scharfstein (@MattAsherS) October 6, 2017
The warrant was issued in May because Harmon allegedly did not fulfill his probation requirements on a misdemeanor drug conviction, according to the Tribune report.
The three Salt Lake City officers later said that Harmon wielded a knife and threatened to “cut” them, but the scene they described is not evident from the videos released on Wednesday. In the videos, no knife is seen in either of Harmon’s hands, and his supposed verbal threat to “cut” the officers is not heard. Instead, the videos show a frightened Harmon pleading with officers not to arrest him on the warrant, then suddenly fleeing as they initially attempt to handcuff him.
In the 1985 case Tennessee vs. Garner, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the use of deadly force to stop a fleeing suspect in unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. According to the National Institute of Justice, the ruling makes it “clear that force must be proportionate to the danger the fleeing person represents.”
“They just murdered him flat out,” said Harmon’s niece Alisha Shaw, in an interview with the Guardian newspaper on Thursday. “They are lying. There is no way they were threatened by anything. He was only trying to get away.”
Watch one of the police body cam videos of the shooting of Patrick Harmon in the video below. Be warned: Both videos contain graphic images of violence and could prove disturbing to many viewers.
The following video shows a different angle, apparently from the body cam of Clinton Fox, the police officer who shot Harmon.
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In his ruling, which may be downloaded as a PDF by clicking on this link, Gill repeatedly refers to the “fear” that Fox was supposedly experiencing before shooting Harmon, saying that the officer “was terrified by how close Mr. Harmon was to the officers,” and “feared if he didn’t immediately use deadly force, Mr. Harmon was going to stab him and/or the other officers.”
[Featured Image By Jason DeCrow/AP Images]