A blind woman shot and killed by a Spirit Lake police officer three months ago fired at officers first, evidenced by body camera footage shown for the first time Friday at a news conference.
The Spirit Lake Police Department also expressed visible frustration at the gathering with the way the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office directed the department to keep information from the public during the investigation into the killing of 67-year-old S.A. Floyd.
Floyd was shot and killed in her senior living apartment on Nov. 1 after friends called police concerned she was suicidal. The sheriff’s office led the investigation into the shooting and passed its findings on to the Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office, which decided on Friday that the officers who responded to the call, Chief Mike Morlan and Cpl. James Windrem, were justified in their actions.
Until recently, basic details surrounding Floyd’s death had been unclear.
Last week was the first time the Kootenai County Coroner released that Floyd had died by homicide. Until Friday, Kootenai County officials never said why police shot at her. At the news conference that night, Spirit Lake police said they would have liked to share more information with the media and public about why officers felt the need to fire their weapons. But the sheriff’s office directed them not to, Morlan said.
“This conference is three months overdue. I apologize,” Morlan said. “We are a very transparent department. … That didn’t happen. That will never happen again.”
The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office said earlier this week they would not be commenting further on the case.
Spirit Lake Mayor Jeremy Cowperthwaite also said he believed the media should have waited “for the whole story” before “leading people in the wrong direction.”
Lt. Eric Reade followed, stating Kootenai County was releasing “inaccurate” information to the media. Reade clarified on Monday he was referring to the sheriff’s office directing his department not to share the reason police used deadly force. Reade said Idaho police departments typically share that information shortly after an incident.
Reade did indicate it’s likely the chief will choose a different agency to investigate if another police shooting were to happen. He and Morlan also thanked the Kootenai County investigators for their response and said they were “grateful for the great job they did” after the shooting took place.
The department opted to show the initial 911 call and body camera footage of both officers, Windrem and Morlan, during the news conference Friday.
In the call, a man is heard telling the dispatcher that his wife’s friend may have attempted suicide because she sent a series of disturbing text messages. The man says Floyd is a senior who is blind and close to being evicted from her senior living apartment.
A woman’s voice is heard telling the dispatcher, “She’s depressed.”
It’s unclear whether the dispatcher relayed to police that Floyd was blind. Morlan said he didn’t know she was blind until much later.
Both officers are seen in the body camera footage responding to the Maple Tree Court senior living apartments. The man calls them over to Floyd’s apartment.
“We are scared to death,” he tells the officers, and invites them inside her unit. He says Floyd locked herself in her room, and they could not get inside to check on her. Morlan and Windrem are seen knocking on the door and saying, “We are just here to check on you.”
One officer asks the man “how long it’s been.” He tells them it’s been an hour.
“Door’s coming off,” one officer is heard telling the other. The two kick the door to Floyd’s bedroom down. Morlan shines a flashlight in the room as Windrem stands behind him in the doorway. As Morlan walks in, Floyd is shouting from under the covers of her bed, asking the officers who they are and telling them to leave.
“Leave me alone,” she is heard shouting. “Go home.”
The officers ask Floyd if they can see her hands. She declines, so Morlan pulls the covers off the bed “to ensure” she hadn’t harmed herself, he explained during the news conference. A portion of the video pauses, showing a dark object labeled “gun” peeking out from under the white bedsheet.
A shot is heard, which prompts Morlan to trip and fall as he tries to escape . Windrem is waiting in the doorway with his gun pointed at the bed. After nearly seven seconds, Windrem fires five rounds into the bedroom at Floyd, who is heard yelping and moaning. The officers radio in that shots have been fired.
Windrem fires 10 more shots into the bedroom because he saw her still moving, according to a report from the Kootenai County Prosecutor. Windrem then looks at Morlan and asks if he’s wounded. Morland says no.
“She still had the gun in her hand,” Windrem is heard telling Morlan through heavy breaths.
“Yes,” Morlan replies.
During the news conference, Morlan indicated Windrem fired his gun because he believed the chief had been shot.
“(He) used deadly force that night to protect me. … That was an outcome we hoped wouldn’t happen,” Morlan told the crowd at city hall, adding that Windrem is “not OK.”
The chief expressed his condolences to Floyd’s family.
“I thought I was going to take a second round at my back. I could see the threat he faced,” he said.
Officers retreated from the residence and called for backup. The senior living complex was evacuated shortly after.
Floyd was pronounced dead at 6:35 p.m., according to a coroner’s report. Reade said he could not say whether medical aid was administered by the Kootenai County deputies who found her, although the sheriff’s office said investigators re-entered the apartment three hours after the shots were fired.
When Kootenai County Sheriff investigators began processing the scene, they found Floyd’s gun in her hand and an additional gun between her legs. Her blood alcohol content was also 0.13 at the time of her death, well over the legal limit, Morlan said.
“That was information the media should’ve had. … I was hopeful the lead agency would provide that. That didn’t happen,” Morlan said. “I asked the sheriff’s office to take lead. I may ask (Idaho State Police) or Coeur d’Alene police. … I honestly thought we were just going to go in there and help her.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Feb. 12, 2024, to add additional comments from Reade on the release of information on the shooting.