|Deseret Morning News graphic Trolley Square shooting rampage|
Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Andy Oblad entered Trolley Square Mall on Monday night from the south entrance, and he soon made contact with off-duty Ogden police officer Ken Hammond, who was on the second level.
Meanwhile, Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Josh Scharman, detective Dustin Marshall and detective Brett Olsen entered the mall from the north. Both groups of officers moved in on 18-year-old Sulejman Talovic, who fired at the officers and was ultimately shot and killed just inside Pottery Barn Kids.
Those were among the new details released by Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank and Salt Lake District Attorney Lohra Miller Friday about the massacre that left six people dead, including the gunman, and four wounded.
The condition of three of those wounded was upgraded by doctors Friday. Stacy Hanson was upgraded from critical to serious condition, as was Carolyn Tuft. Shawn Munns was upgraded from serious to fair condition. Alan "AJ" Walker remained in serious condition.
Miller made her comments while announcing that her office had found that the officers were justified in using deadly force. Although it may seem obvious that the officers acted in an appropriate manner, Miller said, it was important for the officers and the department to get the official clearance.
"Each of these officers is a hero. They have my thanks," she said.
Although she has cleared the officers in her investigation, both the Ogden and Salt Lake City police departments are continuing their own internal investigations. Burbank said the outcome of his department's review should be completed in the coming weeks, and the officers would be able to go back to work.
Burbank said it may be a couple of weeks before his men return to duty, but that may be a good thing for them. Even though the officers involved have been hailed as heroes, that's not exactly how they're feeling right now, Burbank said.
Shooting and killing an 18-year-old man "is a tragic event for any officer," he said. The officers are even feeling remorse for not being able to help the five people who were killed and others who were seriously injured.
"They wanted to help as many people as they could. They're sad they couldn't get there sooner," Burbank said.
It was just seven minutes from the time the first person was shot in the west terrace parking lot to the time the gunman was killed, the district attorney's office said Friday. That time frame is a change of just one minute from what police had reported earlier.
Hammond, who had been enjoying an early Valentine's Day dinner with his wife at Rodizio Grill on the mall's second level, was the first to engage Talovic, even firing his gun at him from the second floor while Talovic was below.
Sarita Hammond, his wife, called 911 and explained to dispatchers that her husband was a police officer, giving them a description of what he was wearing.
"She probably saved his life," said Miller, who noted Hammond could otherwise have been shot by the Salt Lake City police officers.
Other investigators said Oblad, who was the first to have contact with Hammond, also recognized that Hammond did not match the description of the gunman. Furthermore, his actions and demeanor were tips that he was not the killer.
As Hammond joined up with Oblad at the south end of the mall, Scharman, Marshall and Olsen entered from the north, where they heard constant gunfire, Burbank said.
Talovic was firing both a shotgun and a .38-caliber handgun as he made his way through the mall. The district attorney's office believes he used the handgun to fire at officers.
Talovic was facing Hammond and Oblad and became engaged in a gunbattle with them when the three other officers came up from behind. The district attorney's office does not believe Talovic saw the other three coming.
When those three officers told Talovic that they were behind him and that he should drop his weapon, he turned to face them with his gun ready to fire and shouted expletives at the officers.
"He was very aggressive in his demeanor toward police," said Miller.
After Talovic refused to drop his weapon and continued to fire, all five officers returned fire at him. He died just inside Pottery Barn Kids, Miller said.
Ballistics tests were still being conducted Friday to determine how many shots were fired in the mall by Talovic and the officers, as well as how many times Talovic was hit and by which officers.
Both Miller and Burbank praised the officers for their quick response and for putting their own lives on the line by seeking the gunman. It is traumatic for an officer to go toward the sound of gunfire and actively seek a shooter, Burbank said.
"The shots never stopped," he said. "He was shooting anyone and anything. Had he gone into a movie theater or crowded restaurant, who knows how many more people would have lost their lives."
Seeking a motive
As for a motive for the killings, Burbank told the Deseret Morning News after the press conference that his investigators were still looking for one.
"We're making progress. I feel we're getting somewhere, but I have no answers to give out right now," he said.
Although nothing will be completely ruled out in the search for a motive, some of the possibilities that have been rumored on Internet blog sites so far seem to have no merit, Burbank said.
For instance, detectives as of Friday had found no evidence that violent video games may have influenced Talovic. In fact, Talovic did not even own a computer or a video-game system, Burbank said.
Investigators also had not "found anything that has religious or political motivation" or shown that Talovic's ethnicity was a factor, the chief said. In fact, Burbank said he's both amazed and concerned that so many people seem to be hung up on the fact Talovic was a Muslim from Bosnia.
"It worries me (that the public) is going to condemn an entire race or community based on the actions of one individual," he said.
The department has worked hard over the years to eliminate bias from police work, he added.
As for where Talovic obtained his weapons, Burbank said, "We have an idea and we're working on it," and declined to give further details.
Until then, he said, his investigators will continue interviewing anyone who had contact with Talovic, although it appears the young man didn't have any close friends.