REXBURG — On Monday evening, a Rexburg Police Department officer shot and killed a 50-year-old man at an apartment complex while responding to a complaint about an “unwanted subject.”
The events leading up to the shooting have not been made public, but the incident is the fourth fatal shooting by police in eastern Idaho in a week, and the fifth shooting incident overall.
Eastern Idaho typically sees two to three fatal shootings a year. The past week, however, has seen an unprecedented level of gun violence.
Law enforcement officers also have shot and killed individuals in Idaho Falls, Bingham County and Pocatello. Additionally, a suspect wanted in connection to a break in and shooting incident in Idaho Falls also shot at Chubbuck police officers while fleeing last week. In that incident officers did not return fire.
Sgt. Bryan Lovell, public information officer for the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office, said there have been times where law enforcement officers have been involved in multiple incidents, but in his career, he could not recall seeing so many officer-involved shootings in such a short amount of time.
The Eastern Idaho Critical Incident Task Force is now investigating five officer-involved shootings, including the four from the past week: The fatal shooting of Idaho Falls man Joseph Johnson on Feb. 8; the shooting of Bruce Diehl, of Shelley, in Bingham County after he barricaded himself in and shot at deputies; the Saturday shooting of an as yet unidentified suspect in Pocatello by U.S. Marshals who were pursuing a fugitive; and the shooting in Rexburg.
The fifth investigation involves a fatal shooting by Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office deputies on Dec. 30, in which deputies fired upon 21-year-old Peter England after he reportedly pointed a gun at them in Ammon.
The Critical Incident Task Force is not one agency, but a collaboration among law enforcement officers from multiple agencies in eastern Idaho. In the event of an officer-involved shooting or other critical incidents, the task force takes over an investigation to avoid a conflict of interest for the law enforcement offices involved. Its members include the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho State Police, Shelley Police Department, Bannock County Sheriff’s Office, Pocatello Police Department, Power County Sheriff’s Office, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Blackfoot Police Department and Bingham County Sheriff’s Office.
The task force uses resources and personnel shared by law enforcement in the region to investigate. Lovell said the task force could turn to the Tri-County Sheriff’s Association, a similar organization for county sheriff’s offices, for resources. The Tri-County Sheriff’s Association encompasses law enforcement representatives from 17 eastern Idaho counties.
“It’s probably pulling on the resources from every office involved in that task force,” Lovell said.
Idaho State Police Communications Director Lynn Hightower echoed Lovell’s statement, saying that having multiple major investigations at once was not unusual for regional law enforcement, but that it was rare for so many to involve the Critical Incident Task Force.
Idaho State Police are the lead investigators for the incidents in Ammon, Idaho Falls and Bingham County, Hightower said. The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office is taking the lead on the Rexburg incident, and the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation of the U.S. Marshals shooting.
The first incident of the past week happened in the early hours of the morning of Feb. 8. Idaho Falls Police Department officers and Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office deputies were searching for a man, 22-year-old Tanner Shoesmith, who fled a traffic stop. A witness told police they saw Shoesmith run through their yard with a gun.
Police traced a GPS signal from Shoesmith’s cellphone to a property near the intersection of Syringa Drive and Tendoy Drive. The homeowner, Joseph Johnson, was reportedly told by an officer they were searching the area for a suspect.
Officers reportedly encountered Johnson in his backyard, holding a gun. He was wearing a black shirt, similar to the description given of Shoesmith. Idaho Falls Chief Bryce Johnson, no relation to the victim, said police told him to drop the gun. He said what happened next was unclear, but that an officer shot and killed Joseph Johnson. Shoesmith was later located and taken into custody. He did not have a gun on him at the time of his arrest.
A GoFundMe account has been set up by Joseph Johnson’s family at https://tinyurl.com/5ncy5ztb.
On Saturday, U.S. Marshals were pursuing Richard “Rocky Iverson, who was wanted for reported lewd conduct with a child. Iverson and another suspect attempted to flee in a truck when the marshals attempted a traffic stop. The chase ended when the suspects crashed into the fence of the Pocatello Police Department’s parking lot, behind Pocatello City Hall.
Iverson reportedly fled on foot, while the other suspect reportedly fired a gun at the U.S. Marshals. A marshal fired back, hitting and killing the suspect. Iverson was arrested Sunday at a home in Moreland without incident. The deceased suspect’s name has not been released.
The third shooting happened Sunday morning in Bingham County. Diehl was inside an abandoned house on Rose Road and reportedly shot at Bingham County deputies attempting to make contact with him. A Bonneville County SWAT team member who was providing cover for the deputies returned fire, hitting the suspect, a Bingham County Sheriff’s Office news release said. Diehl was transported to Bingham Memorial Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.
Details of what happened in Rexburg have not been released.
Though it was not an officer-involved shooting, Talon Cavanaugh, 26, reportedly shot at police during a pursuit on Thursday. Cavanaugh was wanted in Bonneville County after he reportedly shot a gun above his ex-wife’s head.