BOISE, Idaho — This article was originally published by Margaret Carmel in BoiseDev.
Family members of one of the shooting victims of the Boise Towne Square Mall last fall filed a claim for $500,000 in damages with multiple state and local agencies last month.
On April 15, Maria de Jesus Mora Flores and her three children, Yanet Padilla Mora, Rosalinda Padilla Mora, and an unidentified minor filed a claim against the Idaho State Police, the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, the Boise Police Department, the Meridian Police Department, Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts, and several other state and local entities over the death of Roberto Arguelles in the October 25 shooting.
They hope to recover the cost of Arguelles’ funeral, the medical bills he racked up at the hospital before he died of his injuries, expenses associated with the family’s counseling and other treatment and the loss of his financial support to the family.
A tort claim notice isn’t a lawsuit, but it can precede one. Notice of tort claims are a written demand to recover monetary damages from a governmental entity, its employees and/or its representatives alleging misconduct. State law requires that the agency involved must respond within three months. If the agency does not respond to or rejects the claim, then the person may sue the agency.
Arguelles is one of three victims of the mall shooting, including mall security guard Jo Acker and shooter Jacob Bergquist, who was shot by a Boise Police Officer. Four others were also injured in the attack.
This claim follows an investigation by OSHA into Professional Security Consultants LLC, the security company responsible for patrolling Boise Towne Square Mall and Acker’s employer. The investigation found the company “repeatedly exposed its employees” to workplace hazards by not addressing potential risks of gun violence, a news release from the U.S. Department of Labor said last week.
Questions over Bergquist’s ability to carry a weapon
October’s shooting was not Bergquist’s first encounter brush with the law.
The claim cited several reports from the Idaho Statesman detailing how law enforcement officers were aware of Bergquist and “the heightened risk that he presented to the community.” The filing also noted police reports of racist posts on his now-deleted YouTube page Guns N Rodents, which a Boise Police officer who viewed noted had a particular bias against “Central American immigrants.” Flores and her children all reside in Mexico, and Arguelles was Latino.
Another focus of Bergquist’s YouTube channel was his advocacy pushing for people with felonies to be able to legally carry firearms. On April 2 of 2021, an Idaho State Police officer observed Bergquist recording video in the rotunda of the Idaho State Capitol and asking for directions to Governor Brad Little’s office, according to the Idaho Statesman. He was armed with a semi-automatic handgun at the time.
The officer observed Bergquist telling the receptionist he was a felon and that he wanted to interview Little about his views on felons being able to carry firearms in Idaho. He cited the section of Idaho code that describes which felonies prevent Idahoans from owning guns and which don’t, telling the receptionist he was allowed to carry in Idaho and wanted to get the word out to other felons they could carry in the Gem State as well.
Bergquist has two criminal charges on his record: A 2011 charge for possession of marijuana with intent to sell in Wisconsin and a 2012 theft charge from Illinois. The Statesman reported the marijuana charge was originally a felony and would have banned him from carrying a gun in Idaho, but it was pled down to a misdemeanor. His theft charge was a felony, but Idaho code does not prevent those convinced of felony theft from carrying guns.
The ISP officer who observed Bergquist at the governor’s office requested Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts investigate charges against Bergquist for carrying a weapon against the law, but the office did not take action because they found the law did not prohibit him from possessing a firearm.
Other run-ins with law enforcement
The claim also described several other police reports involving Bergquist the media shared after the October shooting.
In early March of last year, the Statesman reported Bergquist was open carrying in a Meridian Walmart, which is against the store policy. Meridian Police officers reportedly investigated Bergquist after he left the store and told him he was banned from the Meridian Walmart at the request of the company. No legal action was taken against him.
The Statesman also reported a Boise Police Officer saw Bergquist at the end of April 2021 walking in downtown Boise armed with two ammunition magazines on his back. His police report from the day said Bergquist jaywalked in front of the officer, which he interpreted as an attempt to force a confrontation. The officer did not question Bergquist, but documented the encounter, viewed his Youtube page and warned other officers to look out for him.
Between April 30 and May 2 2021, another Boise Police Officer saw Bergquist twice carrying firearms around downtown Boise while he was off duty. First, the officer saw Bergquist carrying a firearm near the federal courthouse wearing a Guns N Rodents tank top to promote his YouTube channel. He saw Bergquist again on May 2 talking with another armed man outside of a Jacksons convenience store on Bogus Basin Road. He later also requested the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to investigate if he could carry a gun legally.
The Statesman also reported Bergquist and another unidentified individual tried to enter Saint Alphonsus in June 2021 with guns and a knife, which are prohibited on the hospital’s campus. He was later questioned by police, but the claim said the incident did not result in “no known legal action other dissuasion” against Bergquist.