As rain poured down Saturday evening, hundreds of protesters gathered at the State Capitol to hold a vigil for Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal — the 22-year-old man who died in an officer-involved shooting in Salt Lake City over Memorial Day weekend.
The vigil took place one day after the Salt Lake City Police Department released body cam footage of the event, which shows Palacios-Carbajal being shot while fleeing. Officers fired more than twenty times.
“When the body cam footage was released, I don’t have words to explain how I felt ... except horrified,” said Sofia Alcalá, a friend of Palacios-Carbajal who spoke at the event. “But more than that, I’m angry. I don’t have time to mourn. His family can mourn. The rest of us, as a community, have to come together and fight.”
For multiple speakers at Saturday’s event, the fight for justice has just begun. As a first step, they want to see the officers involved in Palacios-Carbajal’s death fired and incarcerated. They also called for broader police reform and increased police accountability. The vigil marks the eighth consecutive day of protests against police brutality in Salt Lake City — a message resonating throughout the country as similar protests are occuring in every state.
Koyom Koyom spoke at Palacios-Carbajal’s vigil. The day before, he led an impromptu birthday celebration for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician in Louisville. She would have turned 27 on Friday had she not been killed by police officers who entered her home using a no-knock warrant late at night.
Koyom, who is black, said he will not stop protesting — no matter the conditions — until he sees meaningful change in the police department and elected officials.
“I’ve been in Salt Lake City for almost 22 years. Things have changed,” he said. “Back then, there weren’t too many people of color. Now, we’re here … we have to know that we have a voice and that our voice matters.”
On Friday, Gov. Gary Herbert and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall called for a swift and transparent investigation into the shooting. The members of the Salt Lake City Council went one step further. In a Friday press release, the group described their “outrage” at the death of Palacios-Carbajal and vowed to take action.
“It’s our job to determine whether the current laws and systems in place need to be changed. We believe they do,” the council said. “The system is broken and we need to fix it.”
The council will be discussing funding for officer training and social programs at an upcoming Tuesday work session, according to the release.
Saturday’s vigil evolved into a 2.5-mile march down State Street to the intersection of 900 South and 300 West, where the shooting of Palacios-Carbajal took place two weeks earlier.
Marchers chanted, knelt and bowed their heads in a moment of silence. They called for justice for Palacios-Carbajal and other people of color, like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the Minneapolis man whose in-custody death has sparked nation-wide protests.
In the parking lot where body camera footage shows Palacios-Carbajal taking his final steps, protesters laid down roses and signs, chanting what they described as his last words: “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.”
Correction 2:30 p.m. MDT 6/7/20: A previous version of this article misspelled Koyom Koyom’s name.