Politics & Policy

Utah Governor Declares State of Emergency Due to ‘Civil Unrest’

Utah Governor Gary Herbert (C) is shown at a bill signing ceremony in Salt Lake City, Utah. March 15, 2011 (Office of Governor Herbert/Reuters)

Utah governor Gary Herbert declared a state of emergency in Salt Lake City late Thursday, citing clashes between police and protesters who flooded the streets after the city district attorney announced that the May police killing of Bernardo Palacios Carbajal was justified. 

“In the case of the Salt Lake City Officer Involved Critical Incident that resulted in the death of Bernardo Palacios Carbajal, District Attorney Sim Gill’s findings provide significant evidence of the justifiable actions of Salt Lake City police officers,” Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a statement. “This evidence shows that our officers acted according to their training and the state law regarding use of lethal force.”

Protesters broke windows to the district attorney’s office, leading police to deem the demonstration an unlawful gathering, the Salt Lake City Police Department said. Demonstrators then disrupted traffic in the city’s downtown area and allegedly used pepper spray on officers. One officer was taken to a nearby hospital. 

Police arrested two protesters, the department said. The state of emergency order, which closes the Utah State Capitol grounds to the public, will stay in effect until at least July 14. Herbert also offered Utah’s Department of Public Safety to Salt Lake City.

In May police fired 34 shots at Palacios, leaving him with more than a dozen wounds, after a report of someone making “threats with a weapon,” CNN reported. 

“I know that for some, today’s decision does not feel like justice,” Mendenhall said. “It has become increasingly apparent in our city and across the nation that there is a difference between what so many feel is morally correct, and what is considered appropriate and justified under the law.”

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