The heavily armed man who killed one Fargo police officer and wounded two as they were investigating a traffic stop had been interviewed about his guns in 2021 after the FBI received a tip, authorities said Thursday.
In a statement in response to questions from The Associated Press, the FBI and Fargo Police Department said the FBI received an anonymous tip about Mohamad Barakat in July 2021 in which the tipster expressed concern about Barakat’s mental state, saying he had access to a ” significant number of firearms ” and had used threatening language.
The FBI forwarded the information to the Fargo Police Department. The statement says detectives made three visits to Barakat’s apartment over the next two weeks. They reached him on the third visit and observed several firearms in the apartment, but none were illegal, the statement said.
In an interview, Barakat “denied any ill-intentions,” the statement said. “As there was no evidence of any ongoing illegal activities or indications of an imminent threat, it was determined that no further action could be taken.”
Barakat killed Officer Jake Wallin, 23, and wounded Officers Andrew Dotas and Tyler Hawes during their response to a routine traffic crash July 14. Another officer shot and killed Barakat.
The statement provided Thursday said the July 2021 tip came into the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center. The caller did not provide any details about any threats that Barakat might have made and did not indicate that he had violated any laws.
Diana Freedman, an FBI spokesperson in Minneapolis, said the tip is what led to Barakat’s listing on the Guardian Threat Tracking System.
The FBI routinely opens what it refers to internally as assessments — the lowest level, least intrusive and most elementary stage of a terrorism-related inquiry — when it receives unconfirmed information about potentially suspicious behavior.
That information is catalogued in the Guardian system. During the assessment stage of an investigation, FBI agents are permitted to take certain basic investigative steps such as conducting online research or visual surveillance, but more sophisticated tools such as wiretaps cannot be undertaken without additional evidence of wrongdoing.
FBI Minneapolis and the Fargo Police Department released this joint statement Thursday evening:
In July 2021, the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center received an anonymous tip expressing concern about the mental state of Mohamad Barakat. The tip indicated that Barakat had access to a significant number of firearms and had used threatening language. However, the caller did not provide details about any specific threats made by Barakat and did not say he had violated any laws. Upon receiving the tip, FBI Minneapolis forwarded the matter to the Fargo Police Department (FPD).
The FPD initiated three separate visits over a period of two weeks at the residence of Barakat; no contact was made during the first and second visits, but detectives did make contact on the third visit.
During this visit, FPD detectives observed Barakat had several firearms in the apartment; however, none of them were illegal. Barakat was not prohibited from acquiring or possessing guns. Detectives conducted an interview with Barakat regarding a tip that had been received, during which time he denied any ill-intentions.
The FBI takes all tips and concerns brought to its attention seriously, especially those related to potential threats to public safety and well-being. As there was no evidence of any ongoing illegal activities or indications of an imminent threat, it was determined that no further action could be taken.
NOTE: The video posted above is from July 21, 2023.