An investigation into an October police shooting that left a man dead has determined that Boise police officers were justified in firing their weapons because they “acted in self-defense” — even though the victim did not have a weapon.
Information from an Ada County Critical Incident Task Force investigation and a local prosecutor’s review was reported to the Boise Police Department the week of March 28, according to a Wednesday news release from the Boise Police Department. The Garden City Police Department led the task force investigation, and the Gem County prosecutor reviewed the incident.
Police also released body camera and other video footage of the shooting, in which the last moments of Zachary Snow’s life are visible from multiple camera angles. In the release, police said Snow “took a shooter’s stance imitating that he had a gun” before officers fired their weapons. The video footage shows that happening.
After a review of the incident, the task force investigation, videos and relevant law, Gem County Prosecutor Erick B. Thomson determined that officers were justified in firing their weapons and “acted in self-defense,” police said in the release. The Idaho Way newsletter A weekly roundup of opinions, commentary and your views from around the region.
Thomson told the Idaho Statesman that he received the final report from Ada County, reviewed it over a couple of days and made his decision on the officers’ actions last week. He said the Boise Police characterization of his report was accurate.
Late in the afternoon on Oct. 27, police began searching for Snow, who was said to be potentially suicidal. Snow’s mother, Melissa Walton, had called police to notify them of his mental health issues, according to previous Idaho Statesman reporting.
Once police came into contact with Snow, 26, officers “perceived a threat” before firing their weapons, the police department previously said. The newly released footage and details on Wednesday shed more light on what occurred.
After police learned that Snow had a felony failure to appear warrant in court, officers “established a plan to check Mr. Snow’s welfare and take him into custody,” according to text from a video compiled by the department. Police were also aware of Snow’s history with law enforcement, which includes mention of mental health issues.
In an interview with the Statesman on Wednesday, Walton said that in her calls to both dispatch and two officers prior to the shooting, she told them that Snow was unarmed and was suicidal. She also told the Statesman that Snow would have made officers shoot him rather than face the prospect of returning to prison.
In November 2016, Snow pleaded guilty to felony possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to at least two years with a maximum sentence of seven years. He was released from prison last June 15, according to online records.
At around 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 27, Snow was located near South Capitol Boulevard and West Myrtle Street, according to the video that was part of the police news release.
Four minutes later, officers approached him in between two buildings adjacent to a parking lot. An officer drove up in an unmarked car and attempted to approach Snow with his firearm holstered, according to the news release.
“Immediately upon contact, Mr. Snow took a defensive posture and refused commands to show his hands,” the release stated. “He pulled a hard black object from his rear waistband and took a shooter’s stance imitating that he had a gun. Officers believed he had a gun in hand and that they were going to be fired upon. Two officers then fired their weapons in self-defense.”
In the body camera footage, officers can be heard shouting commands at Snow.
“Show me your hands, I do not want to do this,” one officer shouts with his gun drawn. Moments later, Snow pulls something quickly from his waistband and points it at the officer, who then fires his weapon.
Snow sustained multiple gunshot wounds in the shooting and died at a Boise hospital.
The object Snow pulled from his waistband was not a weapon but a black, cylinder-shaped portable speaker, according to the release.
The two officers who fired their guns were placed on administrative leave after the shooting, as is standard practice. Spokesperson Haley Williams told the Statesman via text that the two officers — Matt Jacobs, a 14-year veteran with BPD, and Clifton Snodderly, a Boise officer for four years — have returned from paid leave. It is not clear when that happened.
“Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of Zachary Snow,” Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee said in the release. “The Boise Police Department values the sanctity of human life, and it pains our officers anytime we face this type of situation. Our condolences go out to the officers and their families as well following this incident.”
Walton said she thinks that police were “aggressive and ready to fire.”
“They went in guns ready,” she said, noting that she was just informed about the new findings on Wednesday.
In December, Walton filed a tort claim against the city of Boise, Ada County and the state of Idaho. The tort claim is a necessary precursor to a lawsuit against such entities.
The Boise Police Office of Internal Affairs will review the task force’s investigation and final report as part of an internal inquiry, according to the release. The city’s Office of Police Accountability also will conduct an independent review.
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