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SLC mayor weighs in on police shooting, homeless shelter problems

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Posted at 3:22 PM, Feb 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-29 21:23:27-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Mayor Jackie Biksupski weighed in on Saturday's police shooting of a 17-year-old boy, saying she had confidence in the investigation being conducted by the Unified Police  Dept. and Salt Lake County District Attorney.

Speaking to reporters after testifying in support of a bill for $27 million in funding to help the homeless, the mayor said the Police Civilian Review Board would also look at the shooting of Abdi Mohamed.

"This is a tragedy for everyone involved and there's a great deal of effort being made to recognize that," Biskupski said. Teen officers shot downtown

The mayor told FOX 13 that Salt Lake City police had made arrangements for Mohamed's family to have an interpreter and to visit him in the hospital, where he is reported to be in critical condition.

"(Police) made sure that they could, in fact, see the boy and the mother was in talking with him. They actually brought him out of the state he was in," she said.

Biskupski would not say much about the shooting, where two officers shot Mohamed three times outside the Road Home shelter on Saturday night. Police have claimed Mohamed was fighting with another man and wielding a metal object, which he was told to drop by the officers before they opened fire. The shooting has triggered protests.

At Monday's hearing at the Utah State Legislatire, homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson revealed Mohamed was not staying at the shelter. She disclosed that while discussing rampant crime along Rio Grande Street, including drug dealing and assaults.

"There is this danger of the criminal element down as we heard on Saturday night. And please know, the victim on Saturday night, was not from the shelter. We have these outside people who come in and prey on our most vulnerable populations," Atkinson told lawmakers.

Pressed about Atkinson's remarks, Mayor Biskupski confirmed to FOX 13 that Mohamed was not staying at the shelter. She refused to say if he was part of the "criminal element" referenced in the legislative committee.

"I can't answer questions like that today, but he was not a shelter homeless person," she said.

Biskupski testified in support of House Bill 436, which provides millions in funding to deal with homelessness issues. The bill calls for smaller shelters to be built around the state and money kicked in for more social services to keep people out of homelessness.

The bill had support from downtown business leaders, including Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller, who testified in support of it. Pete Henderson, the owner of the Rio Grande Cafe, said he supported HB436 but didn't want any money to go to the Road Home shelter.

On Saturday, he said, his business was a crime scene because of the police shooting.

"That operation has destroyed the neighborhood. I'm one of the very few businesses remaining there," Henderson complained.

Road Home shelter director Matt Minkevitch said he understood Henderson's frustration.

"I think Mr. Henderson's comments reflect the frustration of some of the businesses in this area in that Rio Grande is, I think, by any reasonable perspective, doing more than it's fare share of shouldering the thousands of people turning to our shelter," he said.

HB436 passed out of the House committee unanimously. The full House will debate the bill later this week.