Killing of Fargo police officer leaves questions about motive

Police Shooting North Dakota
A memorial begins to take shape, Saturday in Fargo, N.D., where one police officer was fatally shot and two others were critically wounded a day earlier. Authorities have said the suspect was also killed in the shooting, and a civilian was injured.
Ann Arbor Miller | AP

Updated: July 18, 1:50 p.m. | Posted: July 16, 11 a.m.

The Fargo Police Department is reeling from what the police chief called one of the most horrific days in the department's history after three Fargo police officers were shot late Friday afternoon on a busy street. The suspected gunman also was shot and killed by a fourth officer.

The shooting happened when two training officers and two trainees who joined the force this year were responding to what Police Chief David Zibolski said was a routine traffic accident. The suspected gunman had no connection to the accident that was known at the time.

North Dakota Police Shoting
Fargo police officer Jake Wallin.
The City of Fargo via AP

Officer Jake Wallin died from his wounds. Wallin, from St. Michael, Minn. was a recent hire, officially joining the Fargo Department in April.

He also was in the Minnesota Army National Guard. In a promotional video made after he joined the Fargo Police Department, Wallin explained why he wanted to be a police officer.

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“My desire to serve, it comes directly from the want to have purpose behind my job each and every day,” the late officer said on the video. “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.”

Wallin’s funeral service is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Pequot Lakes High School. Survivors include his parents, a brother and his fiancée.

Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Shawn Manke says Army Sgt. Jake Wallin's death is a loss to the Guard family.

Manke said Wallin lived a life of service to not just his state and nation but his community. The 23-year-old entered into service with the Army in 2017 as a cannon crewman. He deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq from 2020 to 2021. And he was serving with the 151st Field Artillery Battalion at the time of his death.

Officer Tyler Hawes, wounded in the shooting, joined the force at the same time as Wallin and was working to complete his field training. Hawes graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris and worked as a corrections officer before joining Fargo’s department.

Police Shooting North Dakota
The intersection of 25th Street South and Ninth Avenue South are seen on Saturday in Fargo, N.D., where one police officer was fatally shot and two others were wounded a day earlier. Authorities said the suspect was also killed in the shooting, and a civilian was injured.
Ann Arbor Miller | AP

The department described the third officer, Andrew Dotas, as a training officer with six years on the force. Dotas also serves in the North Dakota Air National Guard. Dotas is a member of the Red River Valley SWAT negotiations team.

A 25-year-old woman who was nearby at the time also suffered serious injuries.

WCVB-TV in Boston, citing family members, identified her as Karlee Koswick. 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 suspect, Mohamad Barakat, 37, was shot and killed by Fargo officer Zachary Robinson. Zibolski said Barakat fired multiple rounds, but he declined to say what type of weapon was used. He said the department had previous interaction with Barakat but he described it as not significant.  A search of court records do not show any criminal history in North Dakota or Minnesota.

Zibolski said Barakat was not part of the traffic accident officers were investigating.

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

He also fired on Fargo firefighters who were tending to the crash victims. No firefighters were injured.

“As soon as the shots ended, as soon as that guy was stopped by officer Robinson, firefighters bounced out and they were applying first aid immediately to our officers, probably had a very significant impact on their survival.”

Zibolski said he has spoken with officers Hawes and Dotas at the hospital. “They're both in good spirits but they still have a significant recovery time and so their struggle continues and we hope to have them back as soon as possible.”

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said the community and the police department will need time to heal from the incident.

A press conference featuring Fargo police and officials.
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney speaks during a press conference Saturday.
Mathew Holding Eagle III | MPR News

"This hurts, this is hard to take and we never want to see it in our community,” the mayor said, “All of you give us a prayer, give us hope, give us the things we need to do. We will stand and get through this.”

Tesa and Christopher Brown said their family is still reckoning with news of Wallin's death. Their sons grew up with the late officer in St. Michael. The couple said they prayed for the Wallin family Sunday morning at mass.

"To know that this has happened to somebody from our community, our boys went to school with him. So we pray for their family. We pray for him," Tesa Brown said. "It's definitely something that hits close to home. So they went to school with him and they've been chatting back and forth with us about their feelings on it and all we can do is pray for the family."

Brown said they found some solace in church. "It just gives us another opportunity to pray for him to pray for his soul to pray for his family. So and you know, we always support the officers. That's one thing that we do when we see them you know parked on the side of the road will stop and and usually have a gift card for them and a prayer for them and and so just to know that this was something that happens but it's something we pray never happens."

Laura Nielsen said it was a hard loss for the Minnesota community northwest of the Twin Cities. While she didn't know Wallin, she said she was moved by video released by Fargo Police that showed him in training and talking about his motivations for joining the force.

"I saw a video of him in training, and it broke my heart," Nielsen said. "I can't imagine that the beginning of his vocation, he barely had a chance to serve. And it seems like he really was looking forward to that serving and protecting the people. And I think it's heartbreaking."

Fargo chief Zibolski said his department is receiving assistance from many surrounding departments.

The shooting is being investigated by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the FBI. Zibolski said he is confident investigators will find a reason why Barakat opened fire.

Zibolski asked for community support as the department plans what he called an appropriate and honorable send-off for officer Wallin.