Crime, Law and Justice

Fargo chief identifies officer and suspect killed, officers injured in shooting

A press conference featuring Fargo police and officials.
Fargo Police Chief Dave Zibolski speaks during a press conference Saturday after a shooting in Fargo left one officer and the suspect dead and two officers and a citizen injured Friday.
Mathew Holding Eagle III | MPR News

Updated: July 17, 1:52 p.m. | Posted: July 14, 9:10 p.m.

A gunman opened fire on police and firefighters Friday as they responded to a traffic crash in Fargo, N.D., killing one officer and wounding two others, the city's police chief said Saturday.

Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski said the gunman opened fire Friday afternoon for “no known reason at all” but that he was confident investigators will eventually figure out the motive.

Watch the Fargo Police Department press conference

Zibolski said Saturday that officer Jake Wallin, a military veteran, was killed. Two other officers, Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes, were wounded. A 25-year-old woman, Karlee Koswick, was also injured during the shooting, identified by WCVB-TV in Boston, citing family members.

Family members told the TV station she had moved from Massachusetts to Fargo just three weeks ago.

Koswick was wounded in the hip and legs and underwent surgery over the weekend. Her father told WDAY-TV in Fargo that Koswick called him after getting into a car crash on Friday afternoon. He heard gunfire over the call, and then his daughter said she had been shot.

WDAY said Koswick was reported in good condition as of Monday.

The gunman did not hit any firefighters, Zibolski said, but a firetruck was struck by gunfire.

Zibolski identified the shooter as Mohamad Barakat, 37, of Fargo, but provided few details about him or the shooting, citing officials’ desire to protect the investigation. He said he was confident authorities would eventually determine the motive.

A press conference featuring Fargo police and officials.
Fargo Police Chief Dave Zibolski speaks during a press conference Saturday.
Mathew Holding Eagle III | MPR News

“The first thing we always want to know in a situation like this is, ‘Why?’” he said. “Why would somebody do this? What happened?”

Authorities were investigating what Zibolski called a “routine traffic accident" on a busy Fargo street when Barakat opened fire. He did not appear to have been involved in the crash police were working, Zibolski said.

Four officers shown in a slideshow presentation.
The Fargo Police Department released the names of the officer, Jake Wallen who was killed in the shooting, along with officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes who were critically injured, and officer Zach Robinson who shot the suspect.
Courtesy of Fargo Police Department

Among the drivers who witnessed what happened was Chenoa Peterson. She told The Associated Press on Saturday that the shooter appeared to have ambushed the officers. The gunman was at the rear of a car in a bank parking lot near the traffic crash when he fired on an officer not more than 20 feet away, she said.

“He was holding up the trunk of the car with his arm, and then I see the gun come up, and he set it on his shoulder and just pointed it directly at an officer in front of him,” Peterson said. “It was like 10 shots right away.”

Peterson, who said she has a bachelor's degree in nursing, said her first instinct was to get out of her car and help. But her 22-year-old daughter, who was in the passenger seat, yelled that they had to take cover, so she drove around to the back of the bank.

Peterson's daughter said the suspect exchanged simultaneous gunfire with police.

“I saw them firing at each other both at once,” Katriel Peterson said. "But soon as the shooter took a break the cop came walking towards him letting off round after round. There was already an officer down. And a family hiding just on the other side of the vehicle next to the shooter.”

Police vehicles block access to a multi-lane street.
Local law enforcement respond to the scene of a shooting near the intersection of Ninth Avenue South and 25th Street in Fargo.
Dave Samson | The Forum

Shahin Kamranian was working at the Fargo Rentall down the street when he saw fire trucks and an ambulance go by responding to a car accident. He said accidents aren’t unusual at this intersection, so he went back to work.

But a few minutes later, he heard a quick series of several shots.

“As soon as the shots started firing, I saw people running and diving out of the way,” Kamranian said. “For the most part, I think everyone was just in shock and kind of stood there and didn’t really believe what was going on. Once I figured out what was going on, I was in shock.”

Kamranian said officers asked Rentall to keep its 25th Street entrance clear while they investigated.

“I wanna know what compels somebody to open fire when there’s that many people around,” Kamranian said. “That’s really my big question is, why?”

Bo Thi was working alone at J.C. Nails down the street from the shooting. At first, she assumed the commotion was fireworks or a motorcycle. It took her a few minutes to realize it was gunshots. Since she had customers in the store, she didn’t go out.

“We were so scared,” Thi said.

Police Shooting North Dakota
Law enforcement officers work at the scene of a shooting Friday in Fargo.

Asked if the shooting was a planned ambush of police, Zibolski told reporters: “The investigation into that is still ongoing." He said he believed police had previously had some sort of contact with Barakat “but not anything significant.” He did not know what type of gun Barakat used.

He said the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the FBI were investigating.

Zibolski said officer Jake Wallin, a military veteran, was killed, and officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes were wounded. Officer Zach Robinson shot and killed the suspect, Zibolski said.

At the time of the shooting, Wallin, 23, of St. Michael, Minnesota, was in the field as an officer in training, having become a Fargo police officer less than three months earlier. Wallin previously served in the Minnesota Army National Guard and was deployed to Afghanistan, Zibolski said.

“He served his country, came back here and wanted nothing more but to serve in a position with purpose and meaning – his exact words — and he did that,” Zibolski said.

In video played at a Saturday news conference showing Wallin training with fellow recruits, he spoke of his desire to pursue a career in law enforcement.

“Throughout my entire life, I’ve always wanted to work in some sort of position that had purpose behind my job and police officer is always what kind of came to me,” Wallin said. “I don’t want to be sitting in an office wondering why I’m here every day. I want to be out, I want to be doing something that I can tell myself at the end of the day I made a difference somehow.”

Flowers are placed near a sidewalk on the grass.
Flowers are left on the boulevard Saturday near where the shooting happened at 25th Street and Ninth Avenue South in Fargo.
Dan Gunderson | MPR News

Police and other agencies across the region posted sympathies for Fargo police on social media. The Fargo Police Department’s Facebook page updated its profile picture to include an image of an officer’s badge with a black band around it.

A man holds a sign near a road.
A Fargo resident holds a sign on a street outside the Fargo PD Headquarters Saturday.
Dan Gunderson | MPR News

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said he was “heartbroken” by the shooting. Burgum, a Republican who is also running for president, said it was a "tragic reminder that our law enforcement officers risk their lives every day for our safety and deserve our unwavering gratitude and support.”

U.S. Sen. Jon Hoeven expressed condolences to the family of the slain officer and said he and his wife were praying for those who were injured.

Police initially said little about the shooting, calling it only a “critical incident” for nine hours. Early details emerged from people who said they witnessed the shooting or heard gunshots. Shortly after the shooting, officers converged on a residential area about 2 miles away and evacuated residents while gathering what they said was related evidence.

Associated Press writers Jack Dura, Summer Ballentine, Lisa Baumann and Alina Hartounian contributed to this story.

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