Gunman who shot Fargo officers had 1,800 rounds, multiple guns, grenade in car, officials say

19 July 2023

FARGO, N.D. — The man who shot Fargo police officers — one fatally — last week had 1,800 rounds, multiple guns and a homemade hand grenade in his vehicle, officials said Wednesday.

Mohamad Barakat, 37, opened fire on officers responding to a traffic wreck Friday before being fatally shot by Officer Zach Robinson. Officer Jake Wallin was killed, and Officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes were hospitalized with critical injuries.

“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 at a news conference Wednesday.

North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley described Barakat’s attack as “completely unprovoked.”

Police were responding to a routine traffic accident on a busy street when Barakat began firing multiple rounds at them, Wrigley said. He said the shooter initially opened fire with a long rifle and then armed himself with a 9 mm handgun.

“He’s casing the place up and stalking his way in and sizing up his opportunity and then parks there and spends minutes watching the officers and waits until they are literally walking, Wrigley said. “That’s when he lifts his firearm out the window and begins firing. It was an absolute ambush. There’s no other way to describe that”

Robinson ordered Barakat 16 times to put the gun down before firing on him, Wrigley said. Wrigley said Robinson’s use of deadly force “was reasonable. It was justified and lawful in every possible way.”

After the attack, officers found 1,800 live rounds, three long rifles, four handguns, explosives, canisters with gasoline and a homemade hand grenade in Barakat’s car, Wrigley said.

“It’s clear to us that our police officers were ambushed in this attack,” the mayor said.

Firefighters on the scene and a nearby ambulance were essential in preventing additional fatalities, Fargo police Chief David Zibolski said. As soon as the firing stopped, “firefighters bounced out and they were applying first aid immediately to our officers,” he said, which “probably had a very significant impact on their survival.”

Wrigley said Barakat also shot and injured a bystander.

Shortly after the shooting, authorities, including the FBI, converged on a residential area about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) away and evacuated residents of an apartment building to gather what they said was related evidence.

Zibolski said he believed police previously had some sort of contact with Barakat “but not anything significant.”

Zibolski said it does not appear that Barakat was involved in the car crash that brought officers to the scene. But he indicated investigators are determining whether this was a planned ambush of officers.

The state Bureau of Criminal Investigation and FBI are investigating the attack. Robinson was placed on paid administrative leave while state authorities completed an investigation into his use of force, per Fargo police procedure.

The funeral service for Wallin, 23, is set for Saturday morning in Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, according to an obituary. A private service will follow graveside at a cemetery in Nisswa, Minnesota. Dotus was a six-year veteran responsible for training officers.

Wallin served in the Minnesota Army National Guard and was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq from November 2020 to July 2021. He and Hawes were sworn in less than three months ago and were still in training when they responded to the scene Friday.

Governors of Minnesota and North Dakota have directed U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of Wallin through sunset on Saturday, and encouraged residents and businesses to do the same.

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