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Prosecutor finds Sandpoint police officers justified in deadly shootout

UPDATED: Wed., June 6, 2018, 10:40 p.m.

Several police agencies were at the scene where two Sandpoint officers were shot and a suspect was killed early Monday morning March 5, 2018, near Ridley Village Road in Sandpoint. Both officers were transported to North Idaho hospitals and were expected to make a full recovery. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Several police agencies were at the scene where two Sandpoint officers were shot and a suspect was killed early Monday morning March 5, 2018, near Ridley Village Road in Sandpoint. Both officers were transported to North Idaho hospitals and were expected to make a full recovery. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Two Sandpoint Police Department officers were justified in returning fire and killing a man who reportedly shot at them after they responded to a small apartment complex in west Sandpoint, the Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday.

Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh cleared officers Michael Hutter and Eric Clark, who were both injured in the hail of gunfire, after their bullets struck and killed 28-year-old Brandon Kuhlman, a Sandpoint resident who was pronounced dead at the scene.

McHugh said they “responded appropriately to protect themselves” in the “potentially deadly confrontation.”

“Officers Hutter and Clark faced a very dangerous situation, with a man who had fired on them with provocation,” McHugh said in a letter sent May 29 to the Coeur d’Alene Police Department, the lead agency in the investigation.

Officers said they were shot at unprovoked at about 3:10 a.m. on March 5 after responding to a domestic violence 911 call at the Ridley Village apartments near Ridley Village Road. After arriving on scene, police said, Kuhlman stepped out of his residence and opened fire.

Body camera footage released Wednesday shows Hutter and Clark taking a pistol from Kuhlman’s grandfather, who is standing in an apartment doorway with his arms raised. An officer grabs the gun from the man’s hip, while a loud pop is heard coming from the residence.

Seconds later, both officers run out of the entryway while Clark dives onto the sidewalk. The man in the doorway runs outside, arms still raised, while a man who is presumably Kuhlman is seen following him. He fires in the direction of the officers while one of them yells “Shots fired!”

After firing several rounds, Kuhlman can no longer be seen. McHugh said in his letter that Kuhlman ran back into the apartment, where he died. No other body camera footage was released.

Both officers were hit twice and had to be hospitalized. Officer Clark sustained a gunshot injury to his neck and left hand. Officer Hutter sustained a gunshot injury to his chest and leg.

Hutter apparently was able to return fire after he was wounded in the leg and the chest. The 30-year law enforcement veteran was later treated and released from Bonner General Hospital that same day.

Clark was taken to Kootenai Health hospital in Coeur d’Alene, where he underwent two surgeries. Both officers made a full recovery.

The police shooting came days after a Coeur d’Alene police officer was shot during a traffic stop. The suspect was also killed by return fire in that case. Since January 2017, six law enforcement officers in the region have been wounded in shootouts while on duty.


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