Pocatello, ID — A routine traffic stop nearly turned deadly over the weekend after a Bannock County Sheriff’s deputy shot an unarmed 16-year-old boy. While the local media is reporting on the incident with the information from the department, the boy’s father tells the Free Thought Project that the incident is most certainly suspicious and there was no reason to shoot his son.
According to the official account from the sheriff’s department, the unidentified deputy pulled over the vehicle around 9 p.m. on Friday with multiple occupants inside. Although authorities did not say who else was in the vehicle, the boy’s father tells TFTP that it was occupied by the driver who was an 18-year-old male, the victim, and the victim’s younger sister and brother.
For some unknown reason, during the stop, the 16-year-old boy got out of the car and took off running. According to police, a struggle ensued and the boy and the officer engaged in an altercation in which the officer “feared for his life,” and had no other option but to shoot the boy.
According to the boy’s father, however, the three eyewitnesses in the car told a different story. According to the witnesses, the boy was tasered and lying on his back, writhing in pain from the taser, when he was shot in the stomach.
“My son is only 16 years old. He was unarmed. He was lying on his back on the ground in pain from being tazed and was shot close range with a police issue 45,” the boy’s father told TFTP through email.
To be clear, the 16-year-old boy was not driving the car that was stopped for a traffic violation. As he was not suspected of committing a crime, according to the fourth amendment of the constitution, he was free to get out of the vehicle and walk away. However, this is a grey area with law enforcement as officer safety often trumps individual liberty and often times, police can and will extend an ordinary traffic stop to question passengers and detain them.
This appears to be the case in Idaho as the boy—who committed no crime—simply got out of a car that was pulled over, and left the scene. Since he had committed no crime, was not a direct threat to the officer, and was heading in the opposite direction of the officer, one could argue that he was well within his rights to leave the scene and was not a threat.
When police officers conduct a traffic stop, there is no question that they are allowed detain the driver. But what happens if one of the passengers of the vehicle wants to leave in the middle of the stop is up for debate, unfortunately. Still, however, according to his father, the boy has yet to be charged with any crime.
“He was a passenger in a car with an adult driver and my son’s two younger siblings,” the boy’s father told TFTP. “The police confiscated the cellphone my son had in his pocket.”
The family has since retained an attorney, Quentin W. Lackey, who gave the following statement in regard to the shooting:
On Friday, November 23, 2018, a Law Enforcement Officer from the Bannock County Sheriff’s Department was involved in the shooting of a Bannock County Juvenile. He received lifesaving surgery at Portneuf Medical Center. What occurred is a tragedy. Why it happened is unknown. What is known though, is that the incident is being investigated by the Eastern Idaho Critical Incident Team. The juvenile victim and family think that it is necessary to permit the incident team to continue their investigation without undue pressure or undue influence from the public or any party involved. With this in mind, it is hoped that the incident will be investigated in a honest and open manner permitting the truth and facts to be revealed. Of course, in a timely manner. Once the incident report has been completed and is released, a further statement shall be forth coming.
Because this case involves a juvenile, the sheriff’s department is not releasing any information other than the deputy must have believed lives were in danger to justify use of deadly force.
A separate investigation is now underway by the neighboring Power County Sheriff’s Office. On Monday night, residents of Pocatello organized a march to put the Bannock County Sheriff’s Department on notice that they will not stand for a deputy shooting an unarmed 16-year-old boy.