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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Jury says shooting was justified

Associated Press

HAILEY, Idaho – A coroner’s jury has cleared a Blaine County Sheriff’s deputy in the fatal shooting last spring of a 46-year-old transient in the Wood River Valley.

The verdict of the eight-member jury confirmed the findings of a task force that found Deputy Curtis Miller used justified force when he shot Thomas Algiers after Algiers had an altercation with another man, Daniel Hunt, in the Ketchum area on May 16.

“There’s some closure for the Algiers family and the officers,” said Blaine County Prosecutor Jim Thomas. “It’s been hard on everyone.”

One of Algiers’ friends called it a case of suicide by police officer.

Hunt told officers he was attacked at his camp along the Wood River by Algiers, who had a machete.

As the officers investigated, Algiers returned armed with a knife and charged at them, witnesses told jurors during the two-day hearing this week.

Miller fired two shots at Algiers, fatally wounding him. Algiers had 14 deep gashes in his head and had lost a lot of blood before that, medical examiners found later.

Hunt, 45, has been charged with assaulting Algiers with a machete before Algiers was killed by Miller. Hunt is being held in jail in lieu of $50,000 bond.

Two forensics experts testified that the evidence indicated Algiers was within 3 to 6 feet of Miller when the officer fired, hitting him in the wrist and chest. Tests indicated Algiers had a blood-alcohol level about triple the legal limit for drivers.

On Wednesday, two friends of Algiers testified that while the victim was smart and caring he had an alcohol problem and was subject to sudden and violent mood swings.

“He was irate towards law enforcement,” Ralph Scheu said, recalling one earlier confrontation Algiers had with police when “he said he chased the officers out of his camp with a knife. I told him that was pretty stupid. Tom said he didn’t give a damn and that they wouldn’t shoot him.”

The other friend, Ross Youngman, said Algiers appeared increasingly upset and had been looking for a way to take his own life in recent years.

“It seems like he was fading away,” Youngman said.

“He got more and more difficult to talk to. He got depressed. I think he wanted it. … I believe officers were what he used to kill himself.”