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'The police didn't help my son. They killed my son': Family of man shot by Boise police wants answers

Police won't say what the perceived threat was, whether he was armed or how many times he was shot.

BOISE, Idaho — On October 27, Melissa Walton says she called police to tell them her son was struggling and suicidal. That call for help ended in 26-year-old Zachary Snow being shot and killed by police. Now, Walton wants answers. 

Since he was young, Walton told KTVB that her son battled mental illness.

"But he always made people smile," she said through tears. "He was adventurous and outgoing. A little obnoxious at times but he had a big heart, brave. He was my wild child."

She said doctors diagnosed Zachary with anti-social personality disorder at 18. It's described as a mental disorder where a person has no regard for right and wrong and ignores the feelings of others. According to the Mayo Clinic, they often violate the law and become criminals and tend to have problems with drug and alcohol use.

Medication really helped when he took them, Walton said, but he fell into hard illegal drugs, too.

That led to multiple run-ins with the law in his home state of Washington, as well as Idaho, stemming back to when he was a teenager.

Court records show he was convicted of felony drug possession in Idaho five years ago and sentenced to prison. The Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) database shows he got released in June and was on parole.

Snow had a warrant out for his arrest after missing a court date for violating probation.

Boise Police Department (BPD) said officers knew about his record and dealt with him in the past.

They came in contact with him again the evening of Oct. 27 after Walton called dispatch, saying her son threatened to take his own life. His ex-girlfriend contacted Walton and said he was hurting after they separated and he was suicidal.

"I got a video of him standing on top of a building saying to tell me goodbye. So I told my son to answer the phone or I was calling police," Walton said.

Walton told dispatch around 5 p.m. the evening that Snow was on top of a building in downtown Boise.

"I spoke with Zachary again and said, 'Hey bud, I called police. They're looking for you. Go talk to them, they're going to help you.'"

He got off the building. Walton spoke to another officer and explained her son was depressed, off his meds and didn't believe he was armed.

"And then nobody called me. And then his ex-girlfriend said she was with detectives and they had said there was an incident," Walton recalled.

The incident happened about 30 minutes after she called dispatch. BPD said they found Snow on Capitol Boulevard and Myrtle Street in downtown Boise.

RELATED: Man involved in Downtown Boise police shooting dies

In the moments after police found him, it is unclear what exactly unfolded because it's still under investigation. However, we do know a mom's call to police about her suicidal son ended in his death.

"I have no answers, I have no nothing," Walton added.

Witnesses the night the incident happened told KTVB that officers chased Snow down an alley, saw him reach for something, then heard multiple gunshots.

Officers say they approached Snow in an open lot and, in their words, fired their weapons after they "were presented with what they perceived to be a deadly threat."

"My question as a mother, as someone who just lost their child: what was the perception?" Walton asked, "What perception was there that they couldn't use a taser or couldn't use a bean bag round? What was the perceived threat that was so dangerous that they shot and killed him?"

Because the Ada County Critical Incident Task Force (CITF) is investigating, police won't say what that threat was, whether he was armed or how many times he was shot.

Snow was taken to a hospital where he died a few days later on Oct. 30.

"The last text message I sent to my son - because he wasn't answering - was: 'Son, the police are just there to help you. Please let them help you,'" Walton said through tears, "The police didn't help my son. They killed my son."

BPD said all officers get Crisis Intervention Training for calls like this, including lessons in verbal de-escalation, interviewing techniques and use of force options for people in crisis.

It also has a special Behavioral Health Response Team (BHRT) that's part of an ongoing effort to better assist those facing mental health crises and connect them with needed social services.

BHRT has two sworn behavioral health officers and two mental health coordinators, police say. They respond to immediate calls for service related to people in crisis, develop training and policy for officers and coordinate with community partners.

7Investigates learned that team was not with officers on this call. 

BPD spokesperson Haley Williams told KTVB that welfare checks are one of the highest calls for service so they can't respond to all of them. The main role of BHRT is long-term follow-up response and helping direct people who make repeated calls to police to social services.

However, Walton wants to see mental health specialists alongside police on all crisis calls like the one they responded to for her son. Although, she knows that won't bring her son, Zachary, back.

"There's got to be a change," she said. "Go into those situations with compassion and not automatically think: 'It's a criminal. Oh, they have past history. Oh, they're mental, they're gonna kill me.'"

Williams said even if that team was available and went on that call they don't know yet if the outcome would have been different.

CITF is still investigating what happened, with Garden City Police Department leading the investigation.

Garden City PD told 7Investigates that the department is in the process of wrapping up its investigation and waiting on the coroner's report, which could take weeks.

When that's complete, it will send the report over to an outside prosecutor and at that time more info will be released to the public.

Two Boise police officers are currently on administrative leave.

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