An Idaho Falls man is dead after being shot by a police officer in his backyard early Monday morning as officers searched for a suspect.
The incident began around midnight when a Bonneville County Sheriff’s deputy performed a traffic stop on First Street, Idaho Falls Police Department Chief Bryce Johnson said during a news conference Monday afternoon.
The passenger in the vehicle, whose name has not been released, ran and a deputy followed. Additional officers were called to the area, and a manhunt ensued. During the pursuit, a man in his backyard was shot and killed by an Idaho Falls Police officer.
“The information shared at this time is not intended to assign blame or to necessarily explain what occurred,” Johnson said. “There are outstanding questions to which answers are not currently available.”
Court records show the suspect was pulled over for a broken taillight. The vehicle turned onto Lincoln Drive and the suspect jumped out the passenger side door as the car stopped.
The deputy ran after the suspect, who then went through a backyard on Lincoln Drive. As the suspect jumped a fence, the deputy lost sight of him. The deputy radioed to other officers where the suspect was going and that he was wearing a black shirt with khaki pants, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Law enforcement swarmed the area in search of the suspect. Johnson said a resident on Holbrook Drive spotted the suspect running through a yard and believed he was carrying a gun. That information was then conveyed to officers on their radios.
As police searched for the suspect, they learned he had several warrants for his arrest and a violent history with law enforcement, including a warrant for felony battery on an officer.
An Idaho Falls police officer spoke with a man who lived at the corner of Tendoy and Syringa drives. The officer reportedly said they were looking for a person who ran from a traffic stop and would be in the neighborhood.
Police also spoke with the woman who was in the car with the suspect. According to Johnson, the woman showed law enforcement a message from the suspect sharing his GPS location. The GPS ping placed the suspect in the backyard of a home on the corner of Tendoy and Syringa drives.
Police surrounded the home and drew their weapons. Officers heard yelling and approached the backyard, according to Johnson, and found a man wearing a black shirt carrying a gun.
“We do not currently have the answers as to what exactly occurred during these moments,” Johnson said. “We do know that during this interaction, an Idaho Falls Police officer discharged his service weapon, firing one shot which struck the man.”
The man, whom EastIdahoNews.com is not identifying at this time, lived at the home and was not the suspect. He was the same man police had spoken to earlier.
Police and EMTs tried to save his life but were unsuccessful.
Shortly after the shooting, police found the suspect hiding in a shed at a house on Linden Drive. Officers arrested the man and he was booked into the Bonneville County Jail on his warrants. He was also cited for misdemeanor resisting arrest, according to court records.
“There are not words to express how heavy our hearts are today,” Johnson said. “This situation is devastatingly tragic for the family, for the officer, and those that love and care about them. We all feel the weight of what has occurred today. Our sincere sympathies are with the family and friends of those involved, most especially the family of the deceased.”
Johnson did not release the name of the officer who fired the weapon, but he has been placed on administrative leave and will not return to duty during the investigation.
“The Idaho Falls Police Department has core values – one of those values being integrity,” Johnson said. “As we define integrity, it means being honest and truthful at all times, even when the truths we have to tell may be difficult. Today, the truths we have to share with the community are difficult and incredibly tragic.”
After the shooting, the Eastern Idaho Critical Incident Task Force was called in to investigate the shooting. The task force consists of officers from multiple agencies with Idaho State Police leading this particular investigation.
After the task force concludes its investigation, their report is turned over to the Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office, which will determine if the shooting was legally justified.
Johnson said the department is also conducting an internal investigation. A board, which includes three civilians, reviews the case to see if the officer followed department policy.
More information, including body camera footage, will likely not be released until the investigations are over.
“This is a tough day, a tragic day,” Johnson said. “The family, as you can imagine, is in our prayers. I just don’t have words for it — the same thing with the officers involved. Sometimes everyone does what they think is right. Tragedies happen.”