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Tensions rise between councilwoman, police over parole hearing

Idaho Falls

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Idaho Falls Councilwoman Barbara Ehardt discusses her decision to testify on behalf of Franklin Crazythunder in the audio interview above.

IDAHO FALLS — An Idaho Falls city councilwoman who supported a felon during his parole hearing is facing opposition from a local police union.

Idaho Falls Councilwoman Barbara Ehardt traveled to Ada County Tuesday, Sept. 15 to testify for a man who shot six times at an Idaho Falls police officer. The inmate, Franklin Crazythunder, had been taken in by her family as a troubled young boy, she said.

The testimony was given during Crazythunder’s first parole hearing at the Idaho State Correctional Center.

On March 4, 2010, Crazythunder, who was wanted on felony probation at the time, was stopped for traveling over 70 mph in a residential neighborhood.

As Officer Steven Poulter of the Idaho Falls Police Department called in the traffic stop, Crazythunder leaned out the car window and shot six times at Poulter, unloading his .357 magnum revolver. He was 15 feet from Poulter’s car.

Crazythunder then drove away and after a short pursuit was apprehended by Poulter and another officer.

In court, Crazythunder pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and an enhancement of use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony. He received a sentence of 6 to 15 years in prison.

Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Clark, who was serving as a deputy prosecuting attorney at the time, recommended a sentence of 10 to 25 years.

“It’s very rare that someone uses deadly force against a police officer, and then to do that repeatedly where he emptied his firearm, that was certainly very concerning to us,” Clark said.

At the parole hearing Tuesday were Brad Landes, an Idaho Falls police officer, and Ehardt.

Landes, who spoke with as a national trustee for the Fraternal Order of Police and not representing the Idaho Falls Police Department, said he was surprised to hear Ehardt testify in support of a parole of Crazythunder as a city councilwoman for Idaho Falls.

“How would you feel?” Landes asked. “Would you want to see him back on the streets?”

In a statement on Facebook on Thursday, the Idaho Falls Fraternal Order of Police said it was disappointed with Ehardt and said she showed “blatant disregard for the men and women sworn to protect her and this community” when “using her position as member of the City Council (to speak) on behalf of Franklin Crazythunder, who is currently serving time for attempting to murder one of our own. …”

The group linked to an audio recording from Bonneville County dispatch recorded at the time of the shooting and pursuit.

Ehardt said she was attending the hearing in a supportive role. Crazythunder became a friend of the family at the age of 5 when he began working with Ehardt’s mother at Hawthorne Elementary School in the reading department.

Crazythunder became a member of the family and a strong bond was built, she said.

“Things change, things had gone wrong, but you don’t quit loving someone, and when you love someone, you keep supporting them,” Ehardt said.

She expressed regret about how she introduced herself to the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole.

“I definitely mentioned I was a member of the City Council, almost like stating if you’re an attorney,” Ehardt said. “I wish I had not done that. My intent was not to represent the City of Idaho Falls in any way, shape or form.”

Ehardt said she was accompanied by her family members and covered all costs of the trip.

“I absolutely believe Frank — absolutely — should have been put in prison,” Ehardt said. “Oh, I know he’s changed. Has he changed enough? That’s what the hearing was about.”

The board denied Crazythunder’s request to be paroled, and he was ordered to report back in December 2020.