This first appeared in the Idaho Falls Post Register.
We finally have answers about the Nov. 2 shooting of Jesse Quinton.
The facts, as laid out in a prosecutor’s report, are these. Idaho State Police Trooper Andrew Francis pulled Quinton over for speeding. He smelled marijuana in the car. The trooper spoke with Quinton, who was acting strangely, outside the car. Quinton ran. The trooper pursued him. He attempted to use his Taser on Quinton, but it didn’t work. He pulled his extendable baton. Quinton turned abruptly, took the trooper to the ground and put him in a chokehold.
The trooper shot Quinton. Attempts to save his life were unsuccessful.
All available evidence indicates the shooting was not only legally justified but that the trooper had no other choice. He did not set out to kill a man. He attempted to use his Taser, and then an extendable baton instead of lethal force. He used his gun only after being choked to the point where he was on the verge of losing consciousness and being rendered helpless. Nothing more could be expected of him. He deserves nothing but sympathy and support.
So do Quinton’s family, friends and co-workers. They remember a caring, gentle soul. A fellow wildland firefighter remembers him literally giving away his jacket on a cold day. There’s no reason to believe this picture isn’t true.
There is reason to believe Quinton wasn’t himself on the night the trooper pulled him over, that he acted that night in a way he would not have acted if he were sober.
Quinton had a massive dose of dextromethorphan in his system. A common over-the-counter cough suppressant, in very high doses dextromethorphan acts as a dissociative anesthetic — the same class of drugs as PCP. It can cause hallucinations and psychosis, along with a host of other symptoms.
What happened the night of Nov. 2 was, quite simply, a tragedy. It is not necessary to believe that Quinton was a bad person in order to conclude that a trooper was justified in shooting him that night.
Our call for the Idaho State Police to improve its transparency in officer-involved shootings remains unchanged.
It may benefit from greater transparency. Silence never extinguishes suspicion, quite the opposite. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, a space left without facts will soon be filled by speculation. If ISP had released the trooper’s name and more basic details of the shooting, it may have headed off much of the rumor that has circulated in the three months since.
But, more fundamentally, these are facts which the public has a right to know. This doesn’t mean the investigation needs to be completed more quickly, that investigators ought to rush the job. In a case such as this, it requires no investigation to know who pulled the trigger, or to release raw video and audio of the incident. This is evidence that should be released before the investigation concludes, soon after an incident.
It bears repeating: Police are agents of the government. When an officer uses deadly force, the government has used deadly force. That is why police shootings demand independent, public oversight.