An Idaho Falls police officer fatally shot a man who was standing in his own backyard after mistaking him for a suspect who was on the run on Monday, authorities said.
Shortly after the man was shot, officers found the actual suspect hiding in the backyard of another residence and arrested him.
The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office identified the arrested suspect as 22-year-old Tanner J. N. Shoesmith. He was taken to the Bonneville County Jail and booked on three outstanding warrants and a misdemeanor charge for resisting arrest.
Police did not release the names of the victim and the officer who shot him. The family of the victim requested that his name not be released, police said.
The officer has been placed on administrative leave, and the Idaho State Police are leading the investigation into the shooting.
After the investigation, the Bonneville County prosecutor’s office will determine whether the shooting was legally justified. The Idaho Falls police department will conduct an internal investigation to determine whether the standard for discharging a service weapon was met in the incident.
“There are no words to express how heavy our hearts are today,” Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson said in a statement on Monday. “This situation is devastatingly tragic for the family, for the officer, and those that love and care about them."
The incident began shortly at around 12:03 a.m. on Monday when a Bonneville County sheriff's deputy tried to make a traffic stop for a broken taillight of a car in Idaho Falls.
The suspect fled from the car on foot into a residential neighborhood, police said. A woman, who was a passenger in the car, remained inside and spoke to law enforcement officials.
The sheriff's deputy broadcast the direction the man had fled in and described him as wearing a black shirt. Several Idaho Falls officers and sheriff's deputies then entered the neighborhood to search for the suspect.
One resident told officers that they had seen the suspect run through their yard and that they believed the suspect had a gun, Johnson said. This information was then radioed to the other law enforcement officers searching in the area.
An officer spoke briefly with a different resident on the corner of Tendoy Drive and Syringa Drive and informed him that authorities would be in the area for some time as they were looking for a suspect on the run.
During the search, authorities learned that the suspect had three outstanding warrants for his arrest including felony battery of an officer and two failure to appear warrants on charges of resisting and obstructing arrest and proving false information to law enforcement. The suspect also had a history of violent interactions with law enforcement, police said.
The woman passenger showed officers a message she had received from the suspect that shared his GPS location, which placed him in the backyard of a residence on the corner of Tendoy Drive and Syringa Drive.
Officers and deputies then surrounded that residence and backyard. They entered the location with their service weapons drawn due to the information that the suspect may be armed and had a violent history, police said.
According to Johnson, officers heard yelling and approached the backyard where they found a man wearing a black shirt and holding a firearm.
The officers instructed the man to drop the gun, police said. At some point during this encounter, one of the officers shot the man.
"We do not currently have the answers as to what exactly occurred during these moments," Johnson said. "We do know that during this interaction, an Idaho Falls Police Officer discharged his service weapon firing one shot, which struck the man."
Officers and EMS personnel attempted lifesaving measures on the victim but were unsuccessful.
Authorities then determined that the man who had been shot was not the suspect, but the resident and homeowner of that address. He was not a suspect of any crime, Johnson said.
The victim turned out to be the resident whom a different officer had spoken to earlier during the search for the suspect. The man had then gone out to his backyard with a gun and that's when the officers encountered him, Johnson said.
Shortly after the shooting, a deputy reported seeing another man running through the area. Officers tracked the man to a nearby residence and found him hiding in the backyard. He was identified as the suspect who ran from the traffic stop and was arrested, police said. Johnson said he did not know if the suspect was armed.
The entire incident — from the time the traffic stop was initiated to the shooting and the arrest of the actual suspect — lasted approximately 20 minutes, police said.
The officer who fired the shot was wearing a body camera that was activated during the shooting. The footage from that and other body cameras is part of the investigation, Johnson said. He did not say if police would be releasing the footage.
Johnson said his prayers were with the victim and his family, but he also expressed sympathy for the officer who shot him.
"Sometimes everyone does what they think is right," Johnson said. "Tragedies happen."