Bonner County Prosecutor Phil Robinson said his predecessor made a mistake when he let two men go free after they shot at police officers and wounded one deputy.
The shootout happened nearly two years ago, but Robinson is re-filing charges in the case. He will ask a judge to have Ian and Reyhan Higgins arrested on four counts of aggravated battery, making good on a promise he made to law enforcement officers before he was elected.
“After a careful analysis I have determined there is no question the Higgins brothers committed aggravated assault and battery,” Robinson said. “Now that I have seen all the reports, quite frankly, some of the statements made by the Higgins brothers seem contrived and self-serving.”
Former prosecutor Tevis Hull was roundly criticized by law enforcement here when he dropped charges stemming from the Nov. 12, 1995, shooting. He said he didn’t have a case because the four officers who went to the Higgins home never properly identified themselves as police officers. Authorities basically provoked the shooting, he said.
Hull never filed charges again Reyhan Higgins, who according to court records shot Deputy John Givens in the arm. The bullet could have killed Givens, authorities said, but it lodged in his bulletproof vest.
After charges were dropped, the Higgins family filed a more than $27 million civil lawsuit against the county for false arrest.
Robinson, who was running for prosecutor when Hull dropped the case, said it was an injustice not to take the case to a jury. A judge already had found enough evidence existed for Ian Higgins to stand trial.
“This should have went to trial from the start. I haven’t seen anything in the earlier proceedings that would make me change my mind about that in the slightest,” said Bonner County Sheriff Chip Roos.
A panel of officers convened after the shooting to review if Givens acted properly when he fired back after being shot, wounding Reyhan Higgins in the leg. The panel cleared Givens of wrongdoing.
The shootout started when officers were called to an arson fire. A woman evicted by the Higgins family said they threatened her son and tossed her belongings out of the house onto a bonfire.
Four officers went to the home north of Sandpoint about 6 p.m. Givens said he shouted he was a police officer and wanted the men to come out of the house, according to court records. The men responded with a gunshot. The men later came out and Givens again shouted he was from the sheriff’s department.
The brothers fired more shots and Givens was hit in the arm. He fired back with a shotgun and wounded Reyhan Higgins.
The brothers, in statements to police, said they never heard anyone identify himself as police. They said they thought the evicted family was coming back to take revenge and they were protecting themselves. The brothers also told police they heard people whispering outside the house and moving around. “It’s odd they could hear that but not hear someone shouting, ‘Come out. Police officer,”’ Robinson said.