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Man who opened fire on Fargo street searched for "mass shooting events" online, officials say

Fargo shooting suspect had previously researched mass shootings online
Fargo shooting suspect had previously researched mass shootings online 03:08

FARGO, N.D. -- The man who officials say shot four people - killing one police officer - on a busy Fargo street last week had searched online for crowded events in the area and "mass shooting events," though his exact motive in the shooting remains unclear.

Mohamad Barakat was armed with 1,800 rounds of ammunition when he opened fire on the afternoon of July 14. Fargo police officer Jake Wallin was killed in the shooting, and officers Andrew Dotas, Tyler Hawes, and civilian Karlee Koswick were injured. Barakat was killed by Officer Zach Robinson in a shootout that lasted two minutes. Robinsons' use of deadly force, according to North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley was "reasonable" and "justified."

Wrigley provided an update into the investigation on Friday, outlining how Barakat ended up at the intersection and scoped out a scene that originally started as a police response to a fender bender. Wrigley said he was "driven by hate," but not towards any particular group or individual. 

Barakat, 37, had searched terms like "explosive ammo" and "kill fast" for at least the last five years. The night before the shooting, he had searched for information on a downtown Fargo street fair.

Federal officials say the investigation is still ongoing to identify a motive and any potential co-conspirators. There is no reason to believe the public to be in danger, according to U.S. Attorney Mack Schneider. 


The shooting happened around 3 p.m. that Friday. Dotas and Hawes, along with Fargo firefighters, were at the intersection to respond to the accident. Barakat first appeared on surveillance video minutes later. He cased out the scene for "several minutes," Wrigley said, before pulling into a parking lot near the scene. 

Wallin, Dotas, and Hawes were walking towards the car that was hit in the accident when Barakat opened fire with a long, scoped rifle. Wrigely said Wallin appeared to be the first one shot, though it happened "so rapidly" that it was difficult to tell. 

"It's that rapid - they drop, drop, drop," he said.

MORE: Fargo shooter had legal "binary trigger" on long rifle, North Dakota AG says 

Barakat then ran to the back of the car on the passenger side. Robinson opened fire and hit Barakat's long rifle, Wrigley said. Robinson told him 16 times to raise his hands, but Barakat was trying to load a 9mm gun. Robinson then shot Barakat. 

An investigation revealed there were three large containers of gasoline in the back seat, along with two propane tanks filled with explosive materials Barakat had allegedly concocted at home. Wrigley said there was another semi-automatic handgun and AK-style rifle in the car that was not used in the shooting.

Fargo Police Department

After obtaining a federal search warrant, officials searched Barakat's home, where they found an array of live ammunition, trail cameras, several phones, and a computer.

Authorities believe Robinson stopped him from killing far more people. He had initially been driving in the direction of a street fair, just blocks away from the crash scene.

Officials say they still do not know much about Barakat; he moved to the U.S. from Syria in 2012 and became a U.S. citizen in 2019. He worked several odd jobs but had virtually no social media presence or connection with Fargo community members.

He had previous contact with police due to a fire at his home, and someone had made a "guardian report" about him, though it was not connected to threats of violence, officials say. At the press conference, Wrigley made a plea for anyone who knew of Barakat to contact the police.

RELATED: Funeral set for fallen Fargo police officer, MN native Jake Wallin

Wallin, 23, had been with Fargo police for just three months. The St. Michael native was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq with the Minnesota National Guard. His funeral will be held on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Pequot Lakes High School.

The other officers - Dotas and Hawes - both have a "significant road to recovery," Wrigley said. But they were able to stand up from their beds on Thursday. Koswick also has a long medical road ahead but is "in good spirits." 

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