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Family of man shot, killed by Boise Police continue search for answers

An attorney for the family of Zachary Snow said they will file a civil action lawsuit against BPD in hopes to bring change in how police handle mental health calls.

BOISE, Idaho — The family of the Boise man shot and killed by officers in October 2021 is still looking for answers, even after body camera and surveillance footage was released by Boise Police Wednesday.

"Prior to my son standing up he was a non-threat and they came at him in a threatening manner," Melissa Walton told 7 Investigates Wednesday. "They did not respond to a mental health call. They responded as police officers ready to shoot."

Ada County dispatch called BPD about a possible suicidal man who may have been attempting to jump from what was then an unknown location on Oct. 27.

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 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 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.

Gem County Prosecutor Erick B. Thomson reviewed Critical Incident Task Force 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.

The family's attorney, Steven Fisher, said watching the newly released videos did show Snow looking suspicious, but he does not believe officers went into the situation with him correctly.

"I'm thinking, why was the first thing out of the officer's mouth, 'You're under arrest?'" Fisher said.

Walton said she called 911 to report her suicidal son and informed them about his mental state and how he was unarmed and wanted police to kill him.

"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."

Given that information, Fisher said the officers who responded weren't qualified to handle this type of situation.

"You're backing a person into a corner and then showing force," Fisher said. "That's not how you respond to a situation like that. It didn't need to go down like that."

Boise Police said in the report that heading into the call they knew Snow was suicidal.

Officers were advised that Snow had a felony failure-to-appear warrant and would run if he saw police. Boise Police told 7 Investigates officers planned to check on Snow's welfare and arrest him on the warrant.

Before approaching Snow, officers "Had him under surveillance and coordinated a response to prevent him from fleeing," said Boise Police.

"There's no way that they should have created a situation where he ends up dying when the goal and the whole purpose for the call was to save him," Fisher said. "They just converted it from a call to help save a life, into an arrest. Pure and simple."

KTVB asked the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Treasure Valley to weigh on the situation because of their work with law enforcement around the state. Their organization is able to lead law enforcement agencies through Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training and is involved in mobile crisis calls.

"It is impossible to know every part of the story and all the de-escalation techniques that were used, and therefore will not comment on what the officers did or did not do, and the actions or inactions of Mr. Snow. We do affirm and know that people with serious mental illnesses are not inherently dangerous or violent," said in a statement to KTVB from NAMI Treasure Valley.

With the investigation finished, Fisher requested the evidence so he can do his own analysis. He said the issues the prosecutor reviewed in the case are not the same issues the family has.

"What we're looking at is a systemic problem, not purely those officers but it's the whole, 'How we train these people to respond to these kinds of situations,'" Fisher said.

Fisher filed a tort claim on the family's behalf. He said the next step is to bring a civil action lawsuit against Boise Police to hopefully bring change in how police handle mental health calls.

"The officers simply were not qualified and they didn't do it right," said Fisher.

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.

KTVB reached out to Boise Police with questions about the department's knowledge of Snow's mental health history and where BHRT was at the time of this entire incident. A spokesperson said because of the tort claim filed they were not able to provide additional details.

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