TWIN FALLS - A shoplifting suspect at WinCo Foods pointed a loaded .38-caliber revolver at two police officers, who then opened fire and killed him Saturday afternoon, Twin Falls Police Chief Jim Munn said Monday.
The fatal shooting of Logan Brizzee, 19, of Declo, in a WinCo security office adjacent to the retailer's customer service counter, represents the first officer-caused death in Twin Falls since February 1993. Brizzee faced a felony warrant for his arrest for failing to appear in court on a previous robbery charge. Police were called to WinCo on reports that Brizzee had stolen $50 of merchandise.
Munn said Brizzee pulled a concealed gun and pointed it at officers. Munn could not confirm whether Brizzee pulled the trigger.
Store security workers had brought Brizzee into their office and waited for police. Citizen arrests are legal in Idaho, but law enforcement exhorts the public to use caution.
"The shopkeeper has the right to detain people who they catch," said Twin Falls County Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs. "They can detain them forcefully. It's not a practice we are excited about because it puts citizens in danger."
Witnesses told investigators Brizzee was uncooperative by the time the first officer walked into the store, according to the press release.
Store security held Brizzee until the officers arrived at 2 p.m. Saturday. Neither staff nor police knew Brizzee was armed, Munn said. And when veteran Twin Falls police officer Steve Benkula and rookie officer Ben Mittelstadt came into the store they did not know that Brizzee was wanted in Cassia and Minidoka counties on several felony charges and at least one misdemeanor.
"The officers were developing information," said Twin Falls Police Capt. Matt Hicks. "They did not know he had the warrants."
The officers told Brizzee he was under arrest, Munn said.
Brizzee "rapidly stood up, backed away from the officers and pulled a handgun from his waistband and pointed at the officers while in very close proximity," said a police press release. "At that time, both officers pulled their weapons and fired."
They called dispatch and administered first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation - using an automatic external defibrillator - until medics took Brizzee to St. Luke's Magic Valley Regional Medical Center where he was declared dead from his wounds.
Police shut down the store while they interviewed witnesses and collected evidence. At 8:30 p.m., the store re-opened with minimal property damage but having experienced a big scare. For a while at least, the store is increasing security, said Michael Read, a WinCo spokesman in Boise.
Per policy, Munn placed both Benkula and Mittelstadt on paid administrative leave. They will receive psychological counseling.
"The police officers are fine after being assaulted," Munn said. "The suspect may have fired the gun at them - I don't know."
They will also be interviewed as the city department conducts an internal investigation, and Idaho State Police conducts a full criminal investigation - into both Brizzee's alleged assault and the officers' use of deadly force.
Brizzee was alone when members of security apprehended him. But Munn said he had been spotted earlier in the store accompanied by an unidentified woman and child.
Munn said he did not know the number of shots fired in the showdown or whether the encounter was recorded on surveillance video.
Read said the store does use video surveillance.
Cassia County court records show Brizzee was charged in 2006 with misdemeanor possession of fake drugs. His pending charges included two felony counts of fraud, one felony charge of burglary and a misdemeanor charge of resisting and obstructing an officer. More than 20 other cases against him have been closed and are off the record because he was a juvenile.
A bench warrant had been signed for Brizzee's arrest in Minidoka County, when he failed to appear in district court on a 2006 felony charge of robbing a local Maverik gas station.
When Brizzee was killed, his total bond on the combined charges in both counties was $155,000, according to the Twin Falls police press release.
The last officer-involved fatal shooting in Twin Falls was in February 1993 when rookie officer Ron Farnsworth killed Bounthanh Kinnavongsa, a native of Laos who moved to Magic Valley in 1980.
Kinnavongsa opened fire with an assault rifle, striking Farnsworth in the leg. Farnsworth returned fire and it was fatal.
Cassidy Friedman covers crime and courts for the Times-News. He can be reached at 735-3241 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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