GOODING — Police were justified in shooting and killing a man who led them on a high-speed chase through three counties, Gooding County Prosecutor Matt Pember announced Jan. 24 following an investigation.
David James Bamber Jr., 28, of Pleasanton, California, died at the scene of his crashed vehicle after the Oct. 15 chase.
“Bamber represented a clear and immediate danger to the general public and the law enforcement officers that were engaged in the lawful performance of their duties,” Pember wrote in his analysis. “He committed numerous felonious actions in the presence of law enforcement and was in the process of trying to continue said actions, which would have continued to put public safety and human lives at risk.”
Any reasonable officer would have made the same decision given the circumstances, he said.
Just before he was shot, the report said, Bamber was about to drive back toward the interstate after he had driven the wrong direction and narrowly missed many other vehicles, as well as law enforcement officers.
“Armed with the knowledge that Bamber was suspected of two kidnappings, auto theft, was considered armed and dangerous and had threatened if caught to have a ‘shootout’ with cops, had endangered countless lives through his 100 miles of reckless driving, had stolen a vehicle in front of law enforcement at gunpoint and was, in general, a serious threat to human life and public safety,” Gooding County deputy Jeromy Smith opened fire on the truck, the report said.
Deputy David Kiger also fired on the truck once he saw the truck begin to move toward him and had to sidestep to avoid being hit, the report said. The investigation determined that three of the officers’ rounds hit Bamber and that Kiger fired the fatal shot.
The report said a loaded 9mm handgun with an extended magazine and filed off serial number was found on the floorboard of the truck. Police reported finding another handgun near a vehicle abandoned during the chase and a third gun inside that vehicle.
The following is a summary of the incident from the report:
The day’s events began when Ada County Sheriff’s deputy Tim Cooper saw a black, compact vehicle make a sudden, illegal lane change on Interstate 84 at exit 59 near Boise at 11:02 a.m. Cooper followed the vehicle onto Federal Way in his marked sheriff’s office vehicle. The car he was following made an abrupt U-turn and came back toward Cooper’s vehicle at high speed. Cooper could see the driver was a man with neck tattoos, but he could not see if there was anyone else in the car.
The vehicle then re-entered the interstate and went east at high speed.
Cooper pursued the vehicle for several miles at speeds over 100 mph. Before they entered a construction zone, Cooper stopped the chase for the safety of the public.
Cooper was able to obtain the license plate number and learned from a dispatcher that the vehicle was stolen. The driver, Justin Bamber, was suspected of kidnapping the car’s owner. Bamber was believed to be heavily armed and dangerous and it had been reported to police that Bamber said he would “shoot it out with police if confronted.”
Officials did not know if the kidnapping victim was sill in the vehicle with Bamber.
Cooper contacted the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office and told them that the vehicle was headed their way.
Elmore County sheriff’s deputies saw the vehicle approach at a high rate of speed on eastbound I-84 and attempted to stop it with their lights and sirens in their marked patrol units.
The driver left the interstate at exit 95 and entered Mountain Home, drove through city streets and then returned to the interstate going east.
Idaho State Police troopers placed a spike strip to attempt to stop the vehicle. The trooper who set up the strip had to dive for safety when the vehicle approached. Video shows the vehicle traveling at 120 mph passing on the right shoulder and then cutting between two vehicles at 90 mph.
When the vehicle entered Gooding County, sheriff’s deputies Jeromy Smith, David Kiger, Jeff Lenker, George Peter and Kelby Cornett responded and joined ISP in pursuing the vehicle.
Near milepost 141, the vehicle crossed the median and drove east in the westbound lanes, endangering oncoming traffic. Officers stayed in the eastbound lanes parallel to the vehicle.
The vehicle left the interstate at exit 147, then returned and again went east in the westbound lanes until exit 155, near Wendell, where it again left the interstate, returned again and went west in the eastbound lanes at more than 100 mph weaving in and out of vehicles.
The vehicle left the interstate again at exit 147, heading toward Hagerman, then eventually went north under the interstate on 1600 South, which ends on Bureau of Land Management undeveloped land.
ISP troopers were unable to follow on the rocky ground, but Gooding deputies in trucks continued to trail the vehicle until it became high-centered on a large rock near a farm on 1600 South.
Bamber left the vehicle and positioned himself behind it in an “offensive posture, armed with two handguns.”
When approached by officers, he fled south through the farmyard. He approached a farmer, threatened him at gunpoint and demanded the farmer’s truck. The farmer feared for his safety and complied.
Bamber fled in the farmer’s truck, driving through a fence toward the interstate.
Deputies Kiger and Smith thought Bamber had gotten the truck stuck in a ditch, so they left their vehicles and approached on foot. Both gave verbal commands for Bamber to surrender. Smith was on the passenger side of the truck and Kiger was on the ditch bank.
Smith saw that Bamber was able to free the truck and was about to drive toward the interstate, then fired his duty weapon about six times at the truck.
Kiger saw the truck come toward him, and sidestepped it to avoid being hit. He fired a short burst from his MP5 rifle, but believed he had missed, so he fired a second burst.
Bamber drove west to the interstate, crossed both directions of the road, and crashed into a dumpster at the dairy on the other side of the interstate.
He was pulled from the vehicle, handcuffed and given lifesaving measures — which were unsuccessful. He was declared dead at the scene.
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