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Police in eastern Idaho shot and killed a man in his own backyard Monday after mistaking him for a suspect who was later found hiding in a nearby shed, authorities said.
The tragic shooting happened during an overnight pursuit for a man who had fled from a car after an attempted traffic stop in the city of Idaho Falls, according to police. The suspect was wanted for a series of crimes, including felony battery on an officer and resisting arrest.
When cops searching for the fleeing suspect saw an armed man standing in a backyard in the same neighborhood, they apparently assumed he was the suspect they were looking for and ordered him to drop his weapon, police said in a news release.
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It’s not clear what exactly happened during that interaction, but a male officer at some point fired his gun and struck the man — who turned out to be an innocent homeowner.
“We do not currently have the answers as to what exactly occurred during these moments,” Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson said at a news conference, noting that the officer fired a single shot.
Police and emergency medical personnel performed life-saving measures at the scene but were unsuccessful, according to the release.
“There are no words to express how heavy our hearts are today,” Johnson told reporters. “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.”
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The victim’s name and age were not immediately released. Johnson said the man’s family has asked for privacy and more time to notify all their relatives.
The cop who shot the homeowner has been placed on administrative leave, a standard procedure for officer-involved shootings, while state authorities investigate the case. His name is also being withheld.
The suspect police were looking for was arrested minutes after the shooting without further incident. It was unclear if the unidentified man was also armed.
Police said the entire incident — including the foot pursuit, the shooting and the arrest — took place within about 20 minutes.
It all began when a Bonneville County sheriff’s deputy tried to stop the suspect’s vehicle for a traffic violation, police said. The car did pull over, but two of the three occupants in the vehicle allegedly fled on foot into a residential neighborhood.
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The deputy told Idaho Falls police as they arrived to assist in the search that one of the occupants was wearing a black shirt, authorities said. Cops also learned that the man had multiple warrants for his arrest and “a history of violent interactions with law enforcement,” according to the release.
A second passenger who stayed in the car and spoke with officers showed a text message from the suspect, which gave them the man’s GPS location, police said. Around the same time, an area resident reported seeing a man run through their yard with what appeared to be a gun, authorities said.
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Based on the GPS ping and the neighbor’s description, cops surrounded a property moments later and found who they thought was the suspect, according to the release.
“Ultimately, officers and deputies determined that the man that had been shot was not the suspect male but was actually the resident of that address,” police said.
Officers tracked down the real suspect in a nearby property and found him inside a shed.
The Eastern Idaho Critical Incident Task Force responded to the scene Monday and is in charge of the investigation.