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Mother of man shot by Boise Police in October files claim for $500,000 with City of Boise

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The mother of a man shot by Boise Police officers during a mental health crisis last fall filed a tort claim for half a million dollars last month. 

On December 17, Clarkston, Washington resident Melissa Walton filed a claim with the City of Boise through her attorney Steven Fisher claiming $500,000 from “each liable government entity” or the amount of any applicable liability insurance from each, whichever amount is higher, over the death of her son Zachary Snow. The claim listed Officers Matt Jacobs and Officer Clifton Snodderly as “persons involved,” alongside BPD, the City of Boise and Ada County Dispatch. 

[McLean to roll out new Office of Police Accountability; BPD chief asks for 100 new officers]

A notice of tort claim 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.

BPD spokesperson Haley Williams declined to comment on the claim Wednesday. She declined to say if the two officers were on paid leave or still on active duty.

“The two involved officers are currently BPD employees,” Williams wrote in an email. “We do not provide ongoing updates on their personnel status.”

What happened?

According to the claim, Snow, 26, was feeling suicidal on October 26, 2021. Walton called 911, described his mental state to the dispatcher, and asked police officers to assist him around 5 p.m. After informing Snow the police were on their way, officers found him at the intersection of Capitol Boulevard and Myrtle Street and “ultimately shot him several times,” the claim said. He died at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center on October 30. 

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 his 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. 

“As of the date of this claim, (Walton) knows little about the conduct and circumstances which brought about the injury and death of Zachary Snow, because this officer-involved shooting death is still under investigation and authorities have thus far denied (Walton)’s request for records pertaining to the incident,” the claim said. 

Boise’s Office of Police Accountability Director Jesus Jara told BoiseDev an internal investigator with his office has reviewed the details of the shooting. It is now currently under investigation with the Critical Incident Taskforce, which will then be followed by a criminal review by the Ada County Prosecutor. Jara’s office will formally investigate after the prosecutor’s decision.

Jara said this is a typical response to how his office handles police shootings and it is typical for the CITF and prosecutor’s review to take between four and six months after the incident.

Mental health 911 calls lead to shootings nationwide

Reviews of police shootings nationwide show a link between police shooting deaths and mental health crises. 

More than one in five people fatally shot by police have mental illnesses, according to a Washington Post database of deadly shootings by on-duty police officers. Since the database’s creation in 2015, the Post found officers have killed more than 1,500 people with mental illnesses nationwide. 

A similar analysis of police shootings in Utah by the Salt Lake Tribune at the end of 2021 found at least 42% of police shootings statewide in the past decade involved a person in crisis or who is suicidal. 

Boise Police Department does have two teams dedicated to responding to people dealing with mental health crises consisting of a sworn officer paired with an unarmed behavioral health counselor. But, they did not respond to this call, Williams told BoiseDev.

“As we said in our previous news release there were multiple officers searching for the subject that day,” she wrote in an email. “This was not a single team response and in reality, it’s not possible for our Behavioral Health Response Team to go to every call like this. The main role of BHRT is to help people who make repeated calls for service to police and to work with them to provide follow-up services. All of our officers have gone through Crisis Intervention Training.”    

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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