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Two officers who shot Zachary Snow cleared of wrongdoing by city police accountability office

Boise’s police oversight office cleared two officers who shot a man in a mental health crisis last fall. 

On Monday, Boise’s Director of the Office of Police Accountability Jesus Jara released a report exonerating BPD officers Matt Jacobs and Clifton Snodderly for shooting Zachary Snow in downtown Boise on October 26, 2021. This follows the decision by Gem County Prosecutor Erick B. Thomson not to seek charges against the officers last month. 

BPD officers started searching downtown Boise for Snow after his mother, Melissa Walton, called Ada County Dispatch from Washington to report her son was feeling suicidal and intended to jump from a building. Officers eventually located Snow near the intersection of Capitol Boulevard and Myrtle Street and shot him several times after he backed away from officers and pointed a dark object toward one of the officers in a shooting position. 

Jara said both officers had ample reason to believe they were in danger from Snow and he concluded their use of deadly force was justified.

“Based on the totality of the subject’s actions, Officers #1 and #2 reasonably believed that the subject was about to shoot Officer #1 with what appeared to be a weapon in his hand,” Jara wrote in his report. “Officers #1 and #2 discharged their weapons at the subject in defense of Officer #1 and others in the area who may have been struck by gunfire.”

Walton and Jason Hartrell, Snow’s father, have both filed claims for damages in court against the City of Boise in the wake of the shooting. No lawsuits have been filed yet, but Walton’s attorney told BoiseDev in April a suit is planned. 

What did the report find?

Jara’s report said multiple officers were involved in searching downtown for Snow after Walton’s dispatch call came in. 

Eventually, an officer working undercover spotted Snow sitting in a vacant area near Myrtle surrounded by buildings on three sides, leaving him little room to flee the scene. Officers made a plan to approach Snow in an unmarked ability to “maintain the element of surprise” and have other officers staged elsewhere to catch him if he started running. Four officers in total were on the scene responding to the call. 

While the fourth officer hung back in the parking lot across the street, the other three officers got out of two responding vehicles and approached Snow. He immediately started backing up and reached to his waistband when one of the officers told Snow he was under arrest and commanded him to show his hands. 

After the command went out, the report said Snow “abruptly got into a crouched shooting stance” with a black object in his hand pointed at one of the officers. Jacobs and Snodderly saw this and shot their guns at Snow simultaneously. He fell to the ground and officers approached to start administering medical attention and they discovered the object in his hand was a dark-colored speaker, not a gun. 

Crisis Intervention Team was on scene

BPD has two crisis intervention teams to respond to mental health calls consisting of an officer paired with a social worker. 

Earlier this year, BPD told BoiseDev the crisis intervention team did not respond to the Snow incident because “it’s not possible for our Behavioral Health Response Team to go to every call like this” due to the volume of calls in this category. BPD spokesperson Haley Williams told BoiseDev the mental health team’s main job is to focus on those who make repeat calls for service to the police and work to provide follow-up services. 

But, in his office’s investigation, Jara found the crisis intervention team was part of the team of officers who contacted Snow, but “there was no opportunity for dialogue” due to him reaching for his waistband within two seconds of seeing the officers approaching. The entire incident lasted thirteen seconds total. 

It is unclear which officer who responded to the incident was part of the mental health team from the footage of the incident released to the public. All three officers shown in the video are wearing patrol officer uniforms and drew firearms upon approaching Snow. The perspective from the fourth officer, who was nearby, was not shown in the video and they are not visible. 

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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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