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Second tort filed against Boise for October BPD shooting; Same officer shot suicidal man in 2012

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A second family member of a man shot by Boise Police officers during a mental health crisis filed a claim for damages from the City of Boise last month. 

Jason Hartrell, the father of shooting victim Zachary Snow, filed a claim on March 22 through Spokane-based law firm GLP Attorneys claiming BPD was “negligent” in its response to the 911 call that led to his death. The claim does not name a monetary amount of damages Hartrell is seeking, but this is in addition to the claim filed in December by Snow’s mother Melissa Walton for $500,000 from “each liable government entity.”

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According to the claim, Snow felt suicidal on October 26, 2021. Walton, a resident of Clarkston, Washington, called 911, described her son’s mental state to the dispatcher and asked police officers to assist him around 5 p.m. After informing Walton the police were on their way, officers found him at the intersection of Capitol Boulevard and Myrtle Street. They shot him several times, recently released body camera footage from the incident showed. He died at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center on October 30. 

Last week, Gem County Prosecutor Erick B. Thomson cleared both Officer Matt Jacobs and Officer Clifton Snodderly of wrongdoing and found they acted in self-defense after reviewing the Critical Incident Taskforce reports and video of the incident. The incident can now be forwarded to the City of Boise’s Office of Police Accountability for an investigation. 

Jacobs also fatally shot another man reported to 911 as being suicidal, Troy Epperley, in 2012. He was cleared of wrongdoing by both a prosecutor and Boise’s Police Department’s ombudsmen Pierce Murphy at the time, but Murphy said the case showed a need for BPD to address how it responds to calls about suicidal people. The case was somewhat similar to the shooting involving Snow because Epperley’s estranged wife called 911, alerting officers to his suicidal behavior, but in that case, Epperley was armed.

The phrase “suicide by cop” was mentioned in the investigative notes about the Epperley shooting obtained by BoiseDev in a public records request. 

What happens now?

A tort claim notice isn’t a lawsuit, but it can precede one. Notice of tort claims are a written demand to recover monetary damages from a governmental entity, its employees and/or its representatives alleging misconduct. State law requires that the agency involved must respond within three months. If the agency does not respond to or rejects the claim, then the person may sue the agency.

Walton’s claim has passed the three-month deadline, and the City of Boise has not responded, leaving the door open for a suit. Steven Fisher, Walton’s lawyer, told BoiseDev he plans to file in court over Snow’s death. The deadline for the city to respond to Hartrell’s claim is set to expire this summer. His lawyer, Sara Maleki, did not respond to an email asking if the city had responded to the claim or if they planned to file suit. 

BoiseDev asked BPD spokesperson Haley Williams a range of questions related to the two claims and the shooting, but she declined to comment due to pending litigation. BoiseDev asked Williams in January if Jacobs and Snodderly were still on full duty for BPD, but she declined to share any information on their personnel status with the public. 

What does the body cam footage show?

This wasn’t Snow’s first brush with law enforcement or mental illness. 

KTVB interviewed Walton last year, where she shared that Snow had been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder at age 18. She said medications helped control Snow’s condition, but he also used illegal drugs as well. This led to several encounters with law enforcement in Washington and Idaho. He was released from prison in Idaho in June on parole and had a warrant out for his arrest after missing a court date for violating probation at the time of his death, KTVB found. 

Walton told the TV station she informed the 911 dispatcher about Snow’s suicidal state of mind, how he was unarmed, and his desire to have the police kill him. Bodycam footage of the event released last week shows Snow sitting on a curb with a dark-colored hoodie over his head when three officers approached, startling him. The footage shows two officers, presumably Jacobs and Snodderly, pulling their guns immediately upon seeing Snow and running toward him. One of the officers can be heard saying “Don’t do it,” “Show me your hands” and “I do not want to do this” prior to the shooting, while Snow backs away. 

A statement from BPD said Snow “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 object Snow had in his hand was actually a portable speaker, not a weapon. 

Family questions BPD’s response to 911 call

Both Hartrell’s claim and Walton’s attorney have questions about how BPD responded to the call to assist Snow. 

BPD has two behavior health teams consisting of a social worker and a sworn officer to respond to mental health-related incidents, but they did not respond to this call, Williams told BoiseDev in January. She said those teams are mostly focused on assisting Boiseans making repeated calls to 911 for services so they can get connected to nonprofits or other resources and it is “impossible” for the behavior health teams to respond to every call of this nature.  

Fisher, Walton’s attorney, told BoiseDev he felt the shooting wasn’t justified after viewing the body camera footage because “the police created the circumstance that led to their use of deadly force.”

“(Police officers) shouldn’t immediately ignore the reason for the call,” Fisher wrote in an email, when asked if the police should have acted differently knowing Snow was suicidal and had a warrant out for his arrest. “They should follow best practices. There is some good information available online regarding how law enforcement should respond to a call like this.”

Hartrell’s claim levied similar accusations and alleged BPD violated its own policies by not sending a mental health professional to assist Snow after hearing Walton’s concerns. 

“Instead of sending a qualified mental health professional to help Zachary, Boise Police Department sent police officers, untrained in mental health crisis intervention, to assist Zachary Snow,” the claim said. “These officers were not qualified to determine the help that Zachary Snow needed during crisis. Because untrained individuals were sent to the scene, Zachary Snow was needlessly killed by the officers.”

Williams told BoiseDev in January all of its officers go through crisis intervention training, but Hartrell’s attorney disputes this. In the claim, Hartrell’s attorney alleges Jacobs did not go through training on how to respond to a mental health crisis after the shooting of Epperley and was not adequately trained when he responded to the call about Snow. A follow-up email to Hartrell’s attorney, Maleki, asking to substantiate this claim was not returned. 

A BoiseDev public records request for Jacobs training records is still pending as of this writing. Williams declined to answer specific questions about Jacobs or the shooting due to the pending litigation. 

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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