Police in Idaho Falls, Idaho, said on Monday that during a chase an officer shot and killed a man in his own backyard after mistaking him for a suspect. Neither the identity of the victim or the officer have been released.
According to a statement from the Idaho Falls Police Department, the shooting began during a traffic stop over a broken taillight early Monday morning, just after midnight. After the driver took off on foot, the officer who initiated the stop was able to only give a vague description, noting that the suspect was wearing a black shirt and was believed to have a gun. As police struggled to track him down, however, the passenger of the car provided police with his GPS location after receiving a text from him; according to police, and that location was in the backyard of a nearby home. Police then approached the home with weapons drawn.
"We do not currently have the answers as to what exactly occurred during these moments,” IFPD Chief Bryce Johnson said in the statement. “We do know that during this interaction, an Idaho Falls Police Officer discharged his service weapon firing one shot which struck the man. Officers attempted life-saving measures but they were unsuccessful. Emergency medical personnel from the Idaho Falls Fire Department also responded and were also unable to provide any lifesaving aide to the man.”
The officer who killed the citizen was wearing a body camera that was operating at the time, the release noted.
Police said they quickly realized the man they had killed was not their suspect and captured the suspect a few minutes later.
According to local ABC and CBS affiliate KIFI, the apprehended man was 22-year-old Tanner J. N. Shoesmith.
According to the release, the Eastern Idaho Critical Incident Task Force (CITF) has been contacted and is conducting its own investigation of the incident, separate from the Idaho City Police Department. KIFI reported that the officer who killed the citizen has been placed on paid administrative leave.
"Because IFPD is not involved in the investigation, the Idaho Falls Police Department is not able to say how long this investigation will take. It may take several weeks, but it may be longer," the department said. "Separate from the Prosecutor’s process, IFPD will also conduct an internal affairs investigation of the incident once the CITF investigation is complete. The purpose of the IFPD internal investigation following an Officer-Involved Shooting is to determine whether departmental policies and procedures were followed, and if the department standard to discharge the service weapon was met."
A report by the Mountain West News Bureau published on February 1 found that the region has the highest rate of killings by police officers in the nation, at more than 1.5 times the national average. According to law enforcement experts, the phenomenon is largely attributable to the region's racial demographics and culture of gun ownership, the highest in the US.
The incident recalls the March 18, 2018, killing of Stephon Clark by officers of California' Sacramento Police Department. The 22-year-old Black man was standing on the back porch of his grandmother's house after dark that evening with a cell phone in his hand when two SPD officers searching for a suspect described only as a tall Black man drew their weapons and fired 20 shots at Clark, believing him to be their suspect and that he was holding a gun.
Mass Black Lives Matter protests erupted in the wake of the killing, for which there were contradictory stories provided by the family's autopsy of Clark, the official autopsy, police testimony, and what the officers' body cameras showed. In 2019, the city of Sacramento agreed to pay Clark's children $2.4 million, although neither officer was fired or punished for the killing.