Salt Lake Magazine July August 2016

Page 91


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Steve Milner had just finished filming a house fire in Midvale and was back in his Jeep, “drifting” northward toward Salt Lake City, half-listening to his police scanners. He noticed the tone of the voices change almost imperceptibly. Milner, chief photographer at Gephardt Daily, formerly a veteran overnight photographer at KTVX and KSL—where he was nicknamed ‘Nighthawk’— knew instinctively that something was up. “To be a photojournalist in this market, you have to have great scanner skills,” he says. “I noticed everyone on the scanner had an elevated tenor to their voices. You can tell something serious is going on. No one in law enforcement is so professional that they can cloister the humanity from their voice.” An officer had called in a 10-33: Need

immediate assistance! Everyone listening, including Milner, knew lives were in the balance. “That started a whole chain-reaction response from all over the valley.” Milner would soon learn that a Salt Lake police officer had shot a teenager near the Rio Grande station downtown. “I know the terrain—I know the streets and I approached from the south and I was instantly at the scene,” Milner says. He parked his car near the Rio Grande Station and grabbed his camera. “Out of force of habit, I was situationally aware because I was in the middle of a crazy event. And this was an area that has crazy people walking around. I engaged the story and I started shooting like crazy.” In a few minutes, 100 police and other first responders would converge on the scene. “It was an ocean of red,

blue and white lights. It looked amazing,” Milner says. As he worked his way up 500 West, he switched between video and still photography. He came upon a woman and a small boy looking toward a body surrounded by medics. “I was rolling on them. It was family members. They were in a panic. The boy kept saying, ‘I think he’s dead.’” Milner also realized that he was the first photographer on the scene. “I was overjoyed with excitement, because I knew I was getting the story and no one else was. You can’t go the extra mile if you aren’t competitive.” Over the next 24 hours, the public would learn that police gunfire had critically wounded 17-year-old Abdi Mohamed, who would remain in a coma for days. The shooting would become the focus of controversy, an ongoing S A LT L A K E M A G A Z I N E . C O M J U LY / A U G 2 0 1 6