Fargo mourns after ambush shooting of 3 police officers

On Friday afternoon, July 14, 2023, Fargo police were dispatched to a traffic accident at 25th St. and Ninth Ave South. Officer Jake Wallin, 23, just three months into his police career, and his field training officer (FTO) Zack Robinson, arrived and began processing the accident. Fellow rookie officer Tyler Hawes and his FTO Andrew Dotas also responded to assist. There was no indication or forewarning that this routine call would turn violent.

20 minutes into the call, while officers were conducting follow-up to the crash, a man now identified as Mohamed Barakat, 37, of Fargo, opened fire on the four officers and some firefighters who had responded to the crash. Witnesses described hearing multiple bursts of 8-10 rounds, some 50-60 shots fired in total. Officer Wallin was fatally struck during the ambush, and Officers Dotas and Hawes were critically wounded. No firefighters were injured.

Officer Robinson is being credited for stopping the threat by shooting and killing Barakat at the scene. A 25-year-old woman at the scene was also struck by gunfire during the shootout and was transported to the hospital. It is unclear if this woman was part of the original crash.

It is also unclear whether Barakat was part of the original crash, but Fargo Police Chief Zibolski indicated at the July 15 press conference that authorities don’t believe he was. The follow-up investigation into the incident is being conducted by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation. A key component of that investigation will be to establish a motive for why Barakat ambushed the officers. Chief Zibolski mentioned that the Fargo police had limited prior contact with Barakat, and that this contact was not serious in nature. Barakat reportedly lived about two miles from the scene, and his apartment was the subject of an extended search on Friday night.

Ambush shootings, especially of multiple officers at one scene, are rare. Unfortunately, they are becoming more common as there has been a noticeable erosion of respect for law enforcement brought on by calls for police reform and the dismantling of policing as we know it. These calls have undermined the legitimacy of the profession, and have left our police and our communities less safe.

We should all be eternally grateful that young men and women continue to answer the call to serve as police officers — especially in 2023 after years of leftist-led criticism of law enforcement, which included the civil unrest of 2020 and calls nationally to “defund” the police. Despite this movement, young people like Jake Wallin have continued to step forward, putting their livelihoods and their personal safety on the line for our collective benefit. There is no better example of selfless service and heroic action.

Officer Wallin, originally from St. Michael, MN, also served his country as a Minnesota National Guard member and was deployed overseas, including to Afghanistan as part of the war on terror.

The Fargo Police Department put out this video in remembrance of Officer Wallin and his selfless service.

We should also be grateful for a healthy and heartfelt response coming from the Fargo community. The community and the media have been respectful and understanding of their law enforcement family during this tragedy. Citizens impacted by this event have come out in support of the police, holding vigils and honoring those killed and injured.

“I would just encourage the public out there to gather together and pray for the policemen that are in the hospital and their immediate family, and pray for this community right here.”  

Leon Crooks, Fargo Resident

There has been a noticeable respect for and trust in the process authorities need to take in following up on an event like this. It is refreshing to witness a lack of “demands” for body cam evidence, statements from involved officers, and explanations of conflicting information. Instead, there have been respectful inquiries and an appreciation for maintaining integrity in the investigative process. That is indicative of a healthy community, and Fargo should feel proud.

A great deal of information will be compiled during the follow-up investigation. The information gathered and the questions that will be answered will help heal the community and help comfort families impacted by this tragedy. Fargo can be proud that it came together in support of its police family — not all communities do. Cherish that fact, and don’t take it for granted.