Attorney General, law enforcement share more details on shooting

(FARGO) – More details are now known a week after three Fargo Police officers and a bystander were shot in downtown Fargo – with one Fargo Police officer, 23-year-old Jake Wallin, and the shooter, 37-year-old Mohamad Barakat, dead.

Fargo Fire Department responded to the scene of a reported accident at 2:48 p.m., followed by officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes one minute later. At 3:03 p.m., officers Zachary Robinson and Wallin. The accident took place near 9th Avenue South and 25th Street South. At the time, all four officers involved were on scene.

Barakat was spotted driving northbound on 25th Street, where he turned left onto 9th Avenue into an adjacent parking lot where the accident was. His vehicle faced 25th Street. He remained in the area for a period of time, eventually parking in front of police.

Later, Barakat would pull out his long rifle, containing a double magazine with 60 rounds and a scope, and begins opening fire on officers.

Attorney General Drew Wrigley said Robinson described the weapon as an automatic, and investigators found that it had a binary trigger, which allows the firearm to be discharged by repeatedly pulling the trigger.

Wallin appeared to be the first officer struck.

“It appears that Fargo Police officer Jake Wallin is the first struck,” Wrigley said. “But it happened so rapidly that it’s hard to know.”

Hawes and Dotas were also hit, in rapid succession; and all three officers dropped to the ground in a matter of seconds, without any time to react, Wrigley said.

Wrigley said Robinson immediately engaged the shooter with his service weapon, without knowledge of the amount of shooters involved or where they were located. Barakat, according to Wrigley, was not hit in the initial barrage of bullets.

“It’s difficult to overstate how dramatically outgunned police officer Zach Robinson was,” Wrigley said.

Just after 3:06 p.m. was the exact time when Barakat was neutralized. Wrigley says the suspect remained alive, but “was in significant distress.”

Wrigley said Barakat had planned for another event later in the day, when he came upon the accident. Both the Red River Valley Fair and Downtown Fargo Street Fair were taking place at the time of the shooting.

As a part of the investigation, the bomb squad was called in, and a bomb sniffing dog also responded. The dog hit on two different locations – one in the vehicle used in the attack, and another at Barakat’s apartment.

Three large containers – two containing gas and one containing another substance. Additionally, two propane tanks were discovered, both filled with tannerite-like material, which a highly-explosive two-component explosive. All of these were purchased lawfully, according to Wrigley. A homemade, working grenade-like device and several guns, all semiautomatic and not used by Barakat.

“He had the means to blow them up whenever he wanted to,” Wrigley said. The number of guns raised questions about more people being involved, but Wrigley said there is no information stating there were more people being involved.

A federal search warrant was carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and approved by a federal judge – and several guns, live ammunition, trail cameras, phones, computers and a variety of grenade parts were found. Wrigley says forensics experts worked around the clock to investigate the findings after the warrant was signed and secured.

Barakat had little to no social media presence, according to Wrigley, but the investigation into his social media presence is being investigated.

He did, however, search extensively online for terms such as explosive ammo, incendiary rounds, mass shooting events and area events. Wrigley said that at 10:30 p.m. the night before, Barakat’s last search included the phrase, “Thousands enjoy first day of downtown Fargo Street Fair.”

Barakat is a Syrian national, who came to the United States out of asylum in 2012 and became a United States citizen in 2019. Wrigley says he worked odd jobs and had “lost the will” at some point to find ways to gain knowledge of mass casualty events, but eventually lost a willingness to do so – but later returned to continued searches about these types of events. These searches date back as far as 2018.

He has family in the United States, not in the Fargo region, Wrigley said. The family has been contacted.

He was also found to have been putting finishing touches to his shooting skills in the final hours prior to the shooting in downtown Fargo. He had been known to visit a local shooting range.

Barakat was not on a watch list, but had a federal Guardian report made, but Wrigley says the report was not made for a threat of violence.

There is no evidence, at this time, that Barakat hated police.

US Attorney for the District of North Dakota, Mac Schneider, says the motive for the shooting is undetermined as the investigation is still ongoing. Additionally, there is no reason to believe there is danger to the public. Officials also say the question of the shooting being a terrorist attack is still unknown.

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