FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The man who shot three Fargo police officers and a civilian, killing one of the officers before an officer killed him, searched the internet for terms including “explosive ammo” and “kill fast,” as well as for what crowded area events might be happening in and around North Dakota’s largest city, authorities said Friday.
Mohamad Barakat, 37, was apparently driven by hatred and wanting to kill, and didn’t seem to be particular about which group or individual he might target, state Attorney General Drew Wrigley said at a news conference.
On the day of the attack, July 14, Barakat loaded his car with guns, a homemade grenade, gasoline canisters and more than 1,800 rounds of ammunition, authorities said. About 2 miles (3 kilometers) from his home, he came across a fender bender and pulled over to watch from his parked vehicle, authorities said.
With police and firefighters busy helping, Barakat watched for several minutes until the officers walked by his vehicle, when he lifted a.223-caliber rifle out of his car window and began firing, Wrigley said.
The rifle had a “binary trigger” that allowed it to fire so rapidly that it sounded like an automatic weapon, the attorney general said. The three officers who were shot had no time to react and fell in rapid succession. He also fired on a woman, Karlee Koswick, who had been involved in the fender bender and was trying to get away, he said.
The fourth officer at the scene, Zach Robinson, engaged Barakat in a shootout, which ended with Robinson shooting and killing Barakat as bystanders crouched nearby.
Wrigley said he believes the violence could have been the beginning of a bigger attack, as the Downtown Fargo Street Fair and the Red River Valley Fair were underway.
He said Robinson was the “last man standing” between the “horrible events” that Barakat had planned that day.
Barakat killed Officer Jake Wallin, 23, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Minnesota Army National Guard, and wounded Officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes. Wallin and Hawes were so new that they were still undergoing field training.
Barakat was a Syrian national who came to the U.S. on an asylum request in 2012 and became a U.S. citizen in 2019, Wrigley said, adding that he didn’t appear to have any ties to the Muslim community in Fargo.
Barakat’s internet searches about causing mayhem date back to 2018, and there were periods in which his searches abated before picking back up. He had amassed his arsenal in recent years, the attorney general said. At this stage in the investigation, it seems all of his weapons were purchased legally, and he had many of them in his car on the day of the shooting.
Wrigley said Barakat was wearing a vest that was “absolutely stuffed” with magazines and that he “was putting the finishing touches on his shooting skills in the last hours before this assault.”
Barakat had worked odd jobs, and briefly trained as an emergency responder at a nearby community college. He had no criminal record or social media presence and had little contact with other people, Wrigley said.
Lasting about two minutes, the gunfight was still longer than most, David Zibolski, the police chief of North Dakota’s largest city, said Wednesday. Wrigley noted that 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.
The wounded are recovering, their conditions good or stable, authorities said. Wrigley said Koswick was badly wounded and will have a difficult recovery. Meanwhile, a funeral service is planned for Saturday for Wallin, whose body was cremated in his police uniform.
Associated Press reporters Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis and Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas, contributed to this report.