BOISE, Idaho — This article was originally published in the Idaho Press.
When the Treasure Valley fell victim to a tragic shooting at the Boise Towne Square mall in October, it added one more tally to the number of officer-involved shootings in 2021.
There have been six fatal police-involved shootings this year in the Treasure Valley, and 10 police-involved shootings in the valley altogether, according to reports from the Idaho Press, KTVB, Boise Police, Nampa Police, and The Washington Post.
There have been 12 fatal officer-involved shootings in Idaho in 2021, according to the Washington Post. Since 2015, the state has had 57 fatal police shootings altogether.
The 2021 fatal shootings in the Treasure Valley include:
- An unidentified man, 92. Shot after allegedly pointing a firearm at police from his car in Caldwell.
- Zachary Snow, 26. Shot after allegedly threatening to jump off a building in Boise, according to KTVB. The Washington Post reports he had a mental illness.
- Vladislav Fomin, 53. Shot after allegedly pulling out a gun in Nampa.
- Forrest T. Moore, 31. Shot after police saw what they allegedly believed was a handgun. It was later determined by Boise Police to be a semi-automatic BB-gun.
- Dawn Simpson, 51. Nampa Police said the shooting occurred after Simpson allegedly shot at them during a car chase.
- Thomas Andrew Bunde, 58. Shot after allegedly pointing a handgun and threatening officers in Garden City.
Additionally, Jacob Bergquist, the Boise mall shooter, died in the hospital after he reportedly exchanged gunfire with officers, but Boise Police and the Ada County coroner have not released how he died.
The 2021 Treasure Valley officer-involved shootings by city are:
- Boise: 5
- Nampa: 3
- Caldwell: 1
- Garden City: 1
- Meridian: 0
By comparison, in 2020 Boise city had one shooting, Meridian had one, and Canyon County had three.
Mohamud Mkoma, 33, is a Somali refugee who was shot by Boise Police in late June. Mkoma was not fatally struck but remained hospitalized for months after the shooting. The incident occurred after police confronted Mkoma in alleged connection to a missing 14-year-old child who has since been found safe.
Boise Police said Mkoma fled during a traffic stop. Officers said they saw what was believed to be a weapon inside the vehicle. Police allegedly confronted Mkoma, according to the Idaho Press, where they were then compelled to exercise force.
Mkoma was later charged with multiple felony counts of lewd conduct with a minor under 16, felony aggravated assault, felony aggravated assault on law enforcement personnel, felony use of a deadly firearm during the commission of a crime, and four misdemeanors — unlawful entry, malicious injury to property, eluding a peace officer and violation of a protection order.
WHY THE UPTICK?
Times have changed since Boise Police officer Mark Stall was shot and killed during a traffic stop in September 1997. He is the only Treasure Valley officer to die in the line of duty.
The reason for the uptick in police shootings this year is hard to pinpoint, but The Washington Post, which has been compiling police shooting data since 2015, said shootings nationwide have been continuing at a steady pace. The Post gave probability theory as a possible explanation for the steady rate.
“It holds that the quantity of rare events in huge populations tends to remain stable absent major societal changes, such as a fundamental shift in police culture or extreme restrictions on gun ownership,” the website states.
Officer-involved shootings in Boise have peaked twice over the past 10 years. For context, the last time the city had five shootings in one year was 2016. The highest total after that was in 2017 when three took place, according to the Boise Police Department.
Lisa Bostaph, a Boise State University criminal justice professor, said there is no specific reason that the number of officer shootings varies over time. They can be affected by a number of factors, she said, and research has not come to a consensus on what those factors are.
Some studies have shown those predictors can vary across law enforcement jurisdictions, Bostaph said.
Some factors include violent crime rates in certain areas, administrative policies regarding use of force or location of a shooting, and what time an incident takes place. Others include situational circumstances, like how many officers are present during the incident, or individual factors like citizen or officer characteristics.
Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee is adamant that overall crime in Boise is declining.
“Even with an increase in population, the property crime rate in Boise is going down and the violent crime rate has stayed at a low level,” Lee said in a statement posted on the Boise Police Department’s website.
When an officer discharges their weapon towards a suspect, the Critical Incident Task Force is activated. The task force is made up of several law enforcement agencies in the valley who will perform a criminal investigation into the officers involved in the incident to determine if there was any wrongdoing. Before the task force investigation, officer-involved shootings are investigated within the same department that the shooting took place.
Investigations include scouring body and dashboard camera footage, investigating how many times the weapon was fired and more, said Nampa Police Sgt. Doug Harward. He added that during a call the top priority is getting someone help, but sometimes the circumstances don’t always turn out that way and use of force is necessary. Being in a mental health crisis does not always mean force should not be used, Harward said.
“We try to only use reasonable force to keep someone from harming themselves or the public,” he said. “But ultimately, that person is in a crisis and we need to get them help.”
The Nampa Police Department recently held an informational meeting for local media members on its use-of-force techniques. The department currently has updated technology that is utilized during every incident — for example, body cameras will begin recording when an officer draws their weapon, when they open their car door, when they start running, if they are laying on the ground or in a physical altercation with someone.
All of these things, said Harward, help incident investigations and improve transparency between the public and the department.
The Nampa Police Department also undergoes consistent use of force training that includes mental health crisis training and de-escalation tactics, which is incorporated into nearly 90% of their tactical training, said Sgt. Jason Cantrell. The mental health training is 40 hours long, he said.
Jeff Wudarcki, a retired Boise Police Department detective, said he thinks the number of shootings this year could have something to do with the local population growth and people being more stressed out in regards to COVID-19. Nothing is certain, he added, since there is no true way to predict officer-involved shootings.
“Back in the 90s Boise had a lot of shootings, and we are seeing that in the valley. I would assume that would have something to do with the population growing, but that is just a guess,” he said.
Wudarcki added he has never been involved in or investigated a shooting that was not justified.
“We can always think of better ways to do things,” Wudarcki said. “But as far as handling it, I think everybody does a great job.”
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