(AP and staff reports) — A Nez Perce Tribal Police officer has been cleared in the fatal shooting of a Lewiston man, but one of his colleagues could be in trouble.
U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson announced Thursday that the officer who shot 46-year-old Jeffery Allen Flinn would not be prosecuted.
But another officer, Trevor Michael Garrett, had been charged with making false statements to FBI agents investigating Flinn's death.
Flinn died following a 50-mile car chase that ended in gunfire Nov. 12.
Police say earlier that day, Flinn had been released from jail following a drunken driving arrest and then got involved in a one-vehicle crash outside Lewiston. Police say he then stole a truck from another motorist and fled before officers arrived.
Tribal police say they tried to pull Flinn over, but he refused.
The indictment, returned Wednesday by a grand jury in Coeur d'Alene, alleges Garrett lied to FBI agents when he told them he didn't remember the details of what happened between the time he fired at Flinn and the time another officer secured Flinn's rifle.
The indictment alleges those statement were false "because Garrett knew that he remembered that Flinn exited a truck, and that Flinn stood facing law enforcement officers with his hands in the air for three to five seconds before he was shot and killed," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. "The indictment further alleges that Garrett's statements were false because he did know the name and identity of the police officer who shot Flinn."
The incident was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Idaho State Police.
In a prepared statement Thursday, Olson called the investigation "detailed and thorough." "We pursued and obtained all the information necessary to make a prosecutive decision," she said.
To prove a violation of the federal criminal civil rights statute prohibiting law enforcement officer misconduct, prosecutors must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer intentionally used more force than he or she could reasonably have thought necessary under the circumstances, according to a news release.
"That issue was the focus of the investigation," said Olson.
A decision not to prosecute may be made for a variety of reasons, Olson said, including insufficiency of evidence to prove the police officer intentionally used more force than was necessary.
"The statute sets out a tough standard in cases involving allegations of unreasonable force by a police officer," she said. "It requires that we be cautious, thorough and deliberative, and that's what we've been in this case. We determined that under the circumstances, including the weather conditions, lighting and officer's knowledge and state of mind leading up to the shooting, we could not prove all of the elements of this offense beyond a reasonable doubt. In such situations, we are obligated to decline prosecution. We do so here."