AG Believes Fargo Gunman Planned Much Bigger Attack

Mohamad Barakat's car was loaded with guns, explosive materials
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 22, 2023 8:36 AM CDT
AG Believes Fargo Gunman Planned Much Bigger Attack
This photo released by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation on Wednesday, July 19, 2023, shows the car driven by a man who opened fire on Fargo, ND police officers on Friday, July 14.   (North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation via AP)

The heavily armed man who ambushed Fargo police officers investigating a fender bender last week likely had a bigger and bloodier attack in mind, with at least two fairs taking place at the time in and around North Dakota's largest city, authorities said Friday. Mohamad Barakat killed one officer and wounded two others and a bystander before a fourth officer shot and killed him, ending the July 14 attack. Over the past five years, Barakat, 37, searched the internet for terms including "kill fast," "explosive ammo," "incendiary rounds," and "mass shooting events," state Attorney General Drew Wrigley said Friday, But perhaps the most chilling search was for "area events where there are crowds," which on July 13 brought up a news article with the headline, "Thousands enjoy first day of Downtown Fargo Street Fair," the AP reports.

Had Officer Zach Robinson not killed Barakat, authorities said they shudder to think how much worse the attack might have been. All evidence suggests that Barakat came upon the traffic crash by "happenstance" and that his ensuing ambush was a diversion from his much bigger intended target, Wrigley said. "The horrible winds of fate sometimes," he said. "Those events fell into place and fell into his path." On the day of the attack, the downtown fair was in its second day and was less than 3 miles from the crash scene. It's unclear if it was the intended target, though, as Barakat also searched for information on the Red River Valley Fair, which was just a 6-mile drive from the scene, the attorney general said.

After driving by the fender bender, Barakat pulled into an adjacent parking lot to watch from his parked car, Wrigley said. He said Barakat's car was loaded with guns, a homemade grenade, more than 1,800 rounds of ammunition, three "largish" containers full of gasoline, plus two propane tanks, one completely filled and the other half-filled not with propane, but with "explosive materials concocted at home, purchased lawfully." With police and firefighters busy helping, Barakat watched for several minutes until the officers walked by him, when he lifted a .223-caliber rifle out of his car window and began firing, Wrigley said. Barakat killed Officer Jake Wallin, 23 and wounded Officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes, who were so new that they were still undergoing field training.

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Barakat also shot and wounded a fleeing woman, Karlee Koswick, who had been involved in the fender bender. Robinson, who was badly outgunned but was the only officer at the scene who hadn't been shot, engaged Barakat in a two-minute shootout. It ended with Robinson shooting and killing Barakat as bystanders crouched nearby. Barakat was a Syrian national who came to the US on an asylum request in 2012 and became a US citizen in 2019, Wrigley said, adding that he didn't appear to have any ties to the Muslim community in Fargo. He had an "obvious motive to kill," Wrigley said. "I mean, driven by hate. Driven by wanting to kill. Not particularized to some group that we can discern at this moment, not particularized to one individual that we can see." (More mass shootings stories.)

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