July 24, 2023
PEQUOT LAKES, Minn. (AP) – The Fargo police officer who was responding to a routine traffic crash when he was ambushed and fatally shot by a heavily armed man was remembered Saturday as a dedicated officer and an exceptional young man taken too soon.
Twenty three year-old Jake Wallin (pictured) was killed July 14 when a man armed with 1,800 rounds of ammunition, multiple guns and explosives began firing. Two other officers and a civilian were wounded before a fourth officer returned fire, killing gunman Mohamad Barakat. Police said the actions of the fourth officer likely spared the city a bigger, bloodier attack.
Wallin, who had been sworn in as a Fargo police officer in April and was still in field training, was cremated in his uniform. On Saturday, the Fargo Police Department escorted his cremains to Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, for his funeral service, which was attended by loved ones, dignitaries and law enforcement agencies from across the country.
The police procession of 10 squad cars and three buses carrying department employees left Fargo early Saturday for Pequot Lakes. Dozens of people were at the memorial honoring Wallin at the site of the shooting as the procession went past, KFGO reported.
A military veteran, Wallin served in the Minnesota Army National Guard and was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq from November 2020 to July 2021, according to a spokesperson for the Minnesota National Guard.
He will receive final military honors at a private interment.
“He served his country, came back here and wanted nothing more but to serve in a position with purpose and meaning — his exact words — and he did that,” Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski said at a media briefing after the shooting.
Zibolski on Saturday recounted Wallin’s impressive quality as a candidate in his officer interview last fall, how he excelled in the police academy, and strived for a job with meaning and purpose.
The chief shared that body-camera footage showed Wallin “hurried to create distance, intuitively” after his fellow officers were hit, and pulled his gun out and was taking aim at the gunman when he was fatally struck.
“His final act of valor was to selflessly face the shooter and attempt to neutralize him to save others,” Zibolski said. “His actions were valorous and exemplify the highest standards of the policing profession.”
Aunt Jodi Wallin recounted her nephew as “the little boy I adored who grew into the young man I admired and was oh so proud of.”
Wallin had recently purchased a house for himself and his fiancée, and “was so proud of becoming a new homeowner that he ran right out and bought himself a lawnmower and mowed his new lawn,” his aunt said.
“I remember him as a small boy with his little arms wrapped so tightly around my neck, burying his face into me to try to avoid the fireworks that he hated so much at that age,” she said. “From that timid, small boy, he grew to be a driven, ambitious, brave young man.”
Chaplain Jordan Helming, who served with Wallin in Iraq, recalled his dedication as a soldier and his positive personality amid a changing mission as well as restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Jake could see the big picture in life, and he realized that it took long, disciplined, steady efforts to get you to the top of the mountain,” Helming said.
Authorities last week played a video that showed Wallin training with fellow recruits and speaking of his desire to become an officer.
“Throughout my entire life, I’ve always wanted to work in some sort of position that had purpose behind my job, and police officer is always what kind of came to me,” Wallin said in the video. “I don’t want to be sitting in an office wondering why I’m here every day. I want to be out. I want to be doing something that I can tell myself at the end of the day I made a difference somehow.”
Wallin’s parents received two Fargo police awards and the Minnesota Distinguished Service Medal in honor of their son at the service.
Law enforcement agencies from other states attended Wallin’s funeral. A caravan including Sioux Falls police and South Dakota Highway Patrol left Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Friday to make the five-and-a-half hour trip for the funeral.
Flags in Minnesota and North Dakota have been ordered flown at half-staff through Saturday.
Dignitaries at the funeral service included Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
A public memorial service is planned for Wednesday in Fargo. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum will attend and give remarks, his spokesman said.
On Friday, North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley provided more details about the attack, which also wounded Officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes and the civilian, who had been involved in the crash.
Barakat was a Syrian national who came to the U.S. on an asylum request in 2012 and became a U.S. citizen in 2019, Wrigley said.
Over the past five years, he had been searching the internet for terms including “kill fast,” “explosive ammo,” “incendiary rounds,” and “mass shooting events,” Wrigley said.
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.” On the day of the attack, the downtown fair was in its second day and was less than 3 miles from the crash scene.
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.
Had Officer Zach Robinson not killed Barakat, authorities said, they shudder to think how much worse the attack might have been. Wrigley said Barakat had an “obvious motive to kill” and was driven by hate, but it was not directed toward any particular group.
There was no evidence that suggested a hatred of police, and all evidence suggests that Barakat came upon the crash by “happenstance” and his ensuing ambush was a diversion from his much bigger intended target, Wrigley said.
Exactly what that target was remains unknown, and Wrigley described Robinson as “the last man standing in that blue line at that moment.”
“What he was standing between was not just the horrible events that were unfolding there, but between the horrible events that Mohamad Barakat had envisioned, planned and intended and armed himself for,” he said.