Gunman Toting Heavy Ammo and Explosives Cased Scene Before Fatal ‘Ambush’ Shooting on Fargo Police
A man armed with 1,800 rounds of ammunition, a grenade and other explosives in his car ambushed officers who were investigating a crash, killing one and wounding two before a fourth stopped him, thwarting what authorities described as plans for further mayhem, officials said Wednesday.
Mohamad Barakat, 37, shot Officers Jake Wallin, Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes from inside his car on Friday before they could even draw their guns, North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley said at a news conference. Wallin was killed while Dotas and Hawes remain hospitalized in critical condition. Wrigley said Barakat also shot and injured a bystander.
But Officer Zach Robinson disabled Barakat’s .223 -caliber rifle with a shot from his 9 mm handgun from 75 feet (22.86 meters) away, Wrigley said, leaving about 20 rounds still in the magazine. Robinson ordered Barakat 16 times to drop the handgun he continued to wave as he moved in closer and finally killed the suspect in a confrontation that lasted around two minutes, he said.
“In the wake of Mohamad Barakat’s murderous, unprovoked attack, Officer Zack Robinson’s use of deadly force was reasonable, it was necessary, it was justified, and in all ways, it was lawful,” Wrigley told reporters. “Mohamad Barakat engaged in a savage attack. … He unleashed what can only be described fairly a murderous barrage of fire. But that isn’t to say it wasn’t precise. In fact, it was.”
Investigators found 1,800 rounds of ammunition, three long guns, four handguns, numerous ammo magazines, explosives, canisters with gasoline and a homemade hand grenade in Barakat’s car, he said. Officials released a photograph showing that eight of the magazines bore American flag stickers or decals.
“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 the news conference.
Wrigley provided the most detailed account that authorities yet have given about what happened during the gunfight. But the focus was on whether Robinson’s use of deadly force was justified. He said investigators are still trying to determine a motive for the attack on police but promised more details on the investigation at a news conference planned for Friday that will be joined by the FBI.
“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 of Barakat. “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.
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.
Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski said he believed police previously had some sort of contact with Barakat “but not anything significant.”
Zibolski said it does not appear Barakat was involved in the car crash that brought officers to the scene. But he indicated investigators are trying to determine whether this was a planned ambush of officers.
The state Bureau of Criminal Investigation and FBI are leading the investigation. Robinson was placed on paid administrative leave while state authorities completed an investigation into his use of force, which is 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.
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.