Gunman who ambushed N.D. officers 'was planning on more mayhem,' mayor says
Officer Zach Robinson “disabled” the suspect's .223 -caliber rifle with a difficult shot from his own 9 mm handgun from about 75 ft away
By Jack Dura
FARGO, N.D. — The gunman who ambushed police officers in Fargo, North Dakota, last week had a “binary trigger” that allowed him to fire rapidly, authorities said Friday.
The .223-caliber rifle that Mohamad Barakat used in his July 14 attack sounded like an automatic weapon because of how quickly it fired, state Attorney General Drew Wrigley said at a news conference.
Barakat killed one officer and wounded two others and a civilian before Zach Robinson, the fourth officer at the scene, shot and killed him as bystanders crouched in fear nearby. Wrigley said Robinson was the “last man standing” between the “horrible events” that Barakat had planned that day.
He also said because of how quickly he fired, the wounded officers fell in quick succession. As for motive, Wrigley said Barakat was driven by hate and wanting to kill, and that he wasn't particular about which group or individual.
Barakat briefly trained as an emergency responder at a nearby community college. He had no criminal record or social media presence and had little contact with other people, Wrigley said.
On the day of the attack, Barakat brought a suitcase stuffed with weapons and ammunition from his apartment to his car and set off on a drive, Wrigley told reporters Wednesday in the most detailed update yet.
About 2 miles (3 kilometers) from his home, Barakat came across the fender bender and pulled over to watch from his parked vehicle, authorities said. With police and firefighters busy helping, Barakat watched for minutes until the officers walked by his vehicle, and when they were about 15 to 20 feet (5 to 6 meters) from him, he lifted the .223-caliber rifle out of his car window and began firing in what Wrigley called “an absolute ambush" and “a murderous barrage of fire.”
The officers “had no time” to reach for their holstered guns because Barakat's fusillade was so rapid, Wrigley said.
Barakat killed Officer Jake Wallin, 23, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Minnesota Army National Guard, and wounded Officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes. Wallin and Hawes were so new that they were still undergoing field training.
Barakat also hit Karlee Koswick, who was involved in the traffic collision, with two rounds as she ran away.
Robinson, who was in the street about 75 feet (23 meters) away from Barakat, “was the last man standing between what was coming next and what you can see this assailant was armed for,” Wrigley said. He moved from behind a vehicle involved in the crash and fired at Barakat. One of his shots disabled Barakat's rifle, leaving 20 rounds unused after the killer fired 40.
“We have three officers down; send everybody," Robinson said over the radio, after moving closer and noticing the fallen officers.
A wounded Barakat lay on the ground protected by his car, waving a 9 mm handgun. Robinson moved closer, calling out 16 times for Barakat to surrender.
Robinson came around the vehicle and gave one last command to Barakat to put down the gun before shooting him, said Wrigley, who called Robinson’s use of deadly force “justified."
Lasting about two minutes, the gunfight was still longer than most, David Zibolski, the police chief of North Dakota's largest city, said Wednesday. Wrigley noted that Robinson fired approximately 30 rounds and had to stop to reload.
Zibolski said it might have been worse had there not been emergency crews already there, including an ambulance. As soon as the firing stopped, “firefighters bounced out and they were applying first aid immediately to our officers,” Zibolski said.
Inside Barakat's vehicle, investigators found a homemade hand grenade as well as a vest with loaded magazines, more firearms and gasoline canisters, authorities said. There were more weapons back at his apartment.
“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.
Wrigley said he believes the violence could have been the beginning of a mass shooting as the Downtown Fargo Street Fair and the Red River Valley Fair were underway.
The police chief said Barakat “was obviously dead-set on some pretty horrific acts, targets unknown at this time.” Authorities have said a motive is unknown.
As the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the FBI work on the case, the wounded are recovering, their conditions good or stable. Meanwhile, a funeral service is planned for Saturday for Wallin, whose body was cremated in his police uniform.