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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Salt Lake City, Utah 02•12•2007

Inside a crowded shopping mall, off-duty officer Kenneth Hammond drew an active shooter’s fire, saving lives and buying time for the cavalry to arrive.

May 01, 2007  |  by - Also by this author

Reinforcements Arrive

The suspect had no such distractions. Hammond knew that, to the gunman's way of thinking, killing another civilian or cop would be just fine.

Hammond was determined not to let that happen. But just as the off-duty officer was about to venture downstairs and engage the shooter, he caught sight of a Salt Lake City Police Department officer, Sgt. Andy Oblad, arriving on scene downstairs.

For a tense moment, the off-duty cop and uniformed officer regarded one another. Hammond yelled down to Sgt. Oblad, again identifying himself as an off-duty Ogden police officer. Oblad's facial expression relaxed and Hammond realized that the sergeant and he were on the same page. Using hand signals, he communicated to the sergeant that he was coming down to join him.

As Hammond placed his hand on the back of the sergeant, the two men made their way in the suspect's last seen direction, quickly realizing that the suspect had barricaded himself inside a Pottery Barn Kids store, availing himself great cover and an angle on the two officers.

The only cover and concealment immediately available to Hammond and Oblad was a six-foot decorative wall pillar located near the epicenter of the mall. After taking momentary cover behind it, the two officers forked off from one another, with the sergeant moving to a forward position behind an exterior wall of the Pottery Barn Kids, and Hammond gravitating to a wood and brick support column facing the store. The officers found themselves in an L-shaped configuration against the suspect, minimizing potential crossfire with one another.

Just as Hammond reached the back side of the column, the suspect fired two more bursts of shotgun fire at him. Hammond took a quick glance around the right of the column, then recoiled as still more shotgun pellets sprayed its opposite side.

When it came to keeping the suspect from firing at others, Hammond was being very successful. All of the fire was coming for him.

He shifted to the left of the pillar for another peek. Another shotgun blast peppered the column.

Shattering Glass

Hammond knew that the gunman's 12-gauge clearly outclassed his eight-round Kimber. Otherwise, he had great faith in the weapon. He was, however, concerned about his ammo's ability to penetrate window glass at 20 yards. The other question was how long he and Oblad could continue to engage the suspect before the gunman ran out of ammunition.

Hammond wasn't going to waste rounds, but he wasn't going to just continue dodging shotgun pellets, either. Moving back to his right, Hammond went for a double tap on the suspect's center mass, and fired. As he retreated back behind the column, the suspect fired back.

Five seconds passed, a lull that doubled as an eternity. Suddenly, Hammond heard the sound of semi-automatic gunfire and the crackling of shattering glass.

The gunfire ceased. Hammond peered once more to the right of the column. This time the gunman didn't target him.

Instead, Hammond got a good look into the Pottery Barn Kids. The last shards of glass in the display window were falling, enabling him a clear view of the suspect. The gunman was slumped over.

Quiet settled over the scene, and Hammond finally got a look at the man who had been trying to kill him. Sulejman Talovic, an 18-year-old Bosnian refugee who'd recently dropped out of school, was sprawled beyond the display window, dead. Nearby lay Talovic's pistol and shotgun.

Later, Hammond would be briefed on what had happened: Salt Lake City SWAT officers Sgt. Joshua Scharman, Det. Dustin Marshall, and Det. Brett Olsen had entered the store behind the suspect via an outside entrance. Having made their way through the business, they approached the suspect from the rear, calling out, ordering him to drop the gun. When Talovic spun in their direction and pointed his weapon at them, the combined firepower of the officers' weapons-two MP5s and an AR-15-cut him down.

Talovic was dead, but his violent rampage had taken a deadly toll: nine people shot, five dead.

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Robert Riding @ 3/31/2011 4:26 AM

I live in SLC and never heard the officers side of what happened. I appreciate that you have it and are telling it. I also appreciate every officer that is or has been willing to act. Thank you.

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