BOISE, Idaho — A prosecutor reviewing the Critical Incident Task Force investigation has cleared Boise Police officers who shot and killed a man in October 2021 in downtown Boise.
Gem County Prosecutor Erick B. Thomson reviewed CITF reports, videos and applicable law, and determined that "the officers acted in self-defense and his office would not be taking any action," the Boise Police Dept. said Wednesday.
On Oct. 27, 2021, Ada County dispatch called Boise Police about a possible suicidal man who may have been attempting to jump from what was then an unknown location. Reports indicated the man, later identified as 26-year-old Zachary Snow, might be on Interstate 184, a business at 27th and Main, then a business near Capitol Boulevard and Myrtle Street. Officers were advised that Snow had a felony failure-to-appear warrant and would run if he saw police. According to a Boise Police Dept. summary of the incident, officers planned to check on Snow's welfare and arrest him on the warrant.
Officers found Snow in a surface parking lot near Capitol and Myrtle. As officers approached, he "took a defensive posture and refused commands to show his hands. He pulled a hard black object from his rear waistband and took a shooter's stance imitating that he had a gun. Officers believed he had a gun in hand and that they were going to be fired upon. Two officers then fired their weapons in self-defense," the Boise Police Dept. said.
The Boise Police Dept. said the object Snow had pulled from his waistband was later determined to be a black, cylinder-shaped, portable speaker.
Snow was taken to the hospital, where he died three days later. The Ada County Coroner determined that Snow died of gunshot wounds to the head and neck, and also had "multiple" gunshot wounds on his torso.
“Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of Zachary Snow. The Boise Police Department values the sanctity of human life, and it pains our officers anytime we face this type of situation. Our condolences go out to the officers and their families as well following this incident,” said Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee. “We thank the Garden City Police Department for leading the Critical Incident Task Force investigation and the Gem County Prosecutor for their thorough review of the incident.”
In an interview for a story that aired in November 2021, Snow's mother said he had struggled with mental illness since childhood, and at the age of 18 had been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder. Snow went to prison for a felony drug conviction, and was released on parole a few months before his death. Snow's family in December 2021 filed a notice of tort claim against the City of Boise, Ada County and the State of Idaho.
Snow's mother Melissa Walton said she is stunned and shocked by the decision and after five months of seeking answers, this doesn't bring any closure.
"The only reason I say that is because I spoke with Zachary and I relayed information to both dispatch and two officers that I spoke with that he was unarmed," Walton told KTVB Wednesday.
Walton spoke with her son and dispatch around 5 p.m. the evening that Snow was on top of a building in downtown Boise. She said he told her he did not have any weapons and she said she relayed that to first responders.
"He wanted to jump off a building because he didn't have any weapons," Walton said. "He couldn't shoot himself, he couldn't cut himself. He was out of his medication so he couldn't overdose. I made sure to relay that to the officers."
During the phone call with her son, Walton said he told her he was "terrified" to go back to jail and that he would rather have police shoot and kill him. Something Walton said she again made clear to first responders.
"He did exactly what he said he was going to do. He did exactly what I said to police he was going to do," Walton said.
Walton does not believe the officers in the incident were prepared or trained enough to handle someone that is dealing with a mental health crisis. She said what she saw in the video shows that.
"The video shows that not one officer was like, 'Hey Zack, hey man your mom called she's really worried about you," Walton said. "Prior to my son standing up he was a non-threat and they came at him in a threatening manner."
"They did not respond to a mental health call they responded as police officers ready to shoot."
Walton and her attorney said Wednesday's decision has not deterred them and will continue to seek justice for Snow.
"We have not had access to any significant information from the City of Boise up to this point, but we have requested all evidence related to this matter. Now that the investigation is finished we hope to get the evidence soon so we can conduct our own analysis," said Steven Fischer, Walton's attorney. He added their next steps depend on a few things, including getting the evidence back and what duties BPD had in the case.
"The issues we are concerned about are different than the issues the county prosecutor was concerned about. And the legal standards are different. We plan to investigate and analyze this matter thoroughly and to pursue our claims as the evidence warrants," Fischer said.
After the shooting, the Boise Police Dept. released a statement saying all of its officers receive crisis intervention training, which includes verbal de-escalation, interviewing techniques for special victims and use of force options with people in crisis. The department also staffs a Behavioral Health Response Team. However, that team did not go out on the call related to Snow's crisis. The Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare also confirmed to KTVB that the IDHW Mobile Crisis Unit did not respond, either.
Now that the CITF investigation is complete, the Boise Police Dept. has possession of that investigation and the final report. The BPD Office of Internal Affairs will review it as part of an internal investigation, the Boise Police Dept. said. The City of Boise's Office of Police Accountability also will conduct an independent review.
Video of the incident was recorded by a surveillance camera at a nearby business and by body cameras on three Boise Police officers. The Boise Police Dept. has released a redacted version of the video, posted below. Each video stops before Snow is shot.
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