BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — It was a routine collision on a busy Fargo street. But after Mohamad Barakat drove past, armed with 1,800 rounds of ammunition, numerous firearms and a grenade, tragedy ensued.
After the shooting ended on July 14, one police officer was dead, and two other officers as well as a woman in the crash were wounded, leaving authorities wondering what further carnage Barakat might have been planning.
Officer Zach Robinson, the only officer in the melee who was not wounded, fatally shot Barakat with bystanders crouched nearby. More details are expected at a briefing Friday.
Barakat, a 37-year-old who briefly trained as an emergency responder at a nearby community college, had no criminal record. No social media presence.
But then he saw the collision. With police and firefighters tied up helping, Barakat began “stalking his way in and sizing up his opportunity,” North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley told reporters Wednesday in the most detailed update yet.
Barakat parked, watching for minutes until the officers walked away, about 15 to 20 feet (5 to 6 meters) from him. Then he lifted a .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 with Barakat’s fusillade “so rapid,” Wrigley said.
Barakat, who lived in an apartment 2 miles (3 kilometers) away, was using a double-stacked magazine. He killed Officer Jake Wallin, 23, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Minnesota Army National Guard. The barrage also left Officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes critically wounded.
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.
Robinson 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, Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski said. Wrigley noted 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.
Before taking the drive, Barakat had rolled a weapons-filled suitcase from his apartment, Wrigley said. Inside his vehicle, investigators found the homemade hand grenade, as well as a vest with loaded magazines, more firearms and canisters of gasoline. 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.
The attorney general 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.