Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Wayne Longo said Thursday that Officer Spencer Mortensen, a six-year veteran of the force, is the officer who shot and killed Eric B. Johnston on Sunday morning in an apartment near downtown.
Johnston, 35, a Dalton Gardens resident, died from multiple gunshot wounds. A friend who had been in the apartment with him moments earlier said Johnston had been holding a kitchen knife to himself.
Mortensen was in the news three years ago as one of four Coeur d’Alene police officers credited with rescuing a woman from a burning building. He received a department commendation for his response in that incident.
Earlier this year he helped apprehend arson suspect Clark E. Richman of Denver, Colo., at a fire near Kootenai Health. Richman pulled a knife on Mortensen in the dark, and the officer drew his service revolver and ordered Richman to drop the knife. Mortensen held the suspect at bay until backup arrived.
In Sunday’s shooting, Mortensen and other officers approached the apartment at 1422 E. Young Ave. shortly before 8 a.m. looking for Johnston, who had driven his pickup truck into a utility pole, knocking it over, a half hour earlier about a block away.
Investigators have not said what prompted Mortensen to pull his gun and fire at Johnston. His friend and the tenant of the apartment, Wendy Woods, said Johnston was holding a knife to himself and saying he did not want to go back to jail. Johnston had served time in jail for driving under the influence.
Nearby residents reported hearing Mortensen order Johnston to drop the knife before firing.
The Idaho State Police is continuing to investigate the shooting. The agency has released no further details.
In March 2010, Mortensen and three other officers ran into an apartment complex along Government Way and helped elderly residents outside.
They knocked on doors to wake those who were sleeping and found one woman sleeping in her bed as smoke filled her room, according to news accounts. The officers placed the woman in her wheelchair and helped her outside. Mortensen and the other officers were treated for smoke inhalation.
A little over a year ago Mortensen was cleared of an excessive force allegation in a lawsuit filed in federal court. The jury found him not guilty in the suit brought by Teresa Campbell over her January 2009 arrest.
Campbell alleged police used excessive force in arresting her at Kootenai Health, and that the arrest lacked probable cause and violated her civil rights.