Deputy describes being hit by bullet as trial begins for man accused of shooting him

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Juan Santos-Quintero | Mike Price, EastIdahoNews.com

BLACKFOOT — The trial began Tuesday for a man accused of shooting a Bingham County Sheriff’s Sergeant.

Juan Santos-Quintero, 23, entered the Bingham County Courthouse to stand trial for allegedly shooting Sgt. Todd Howell. Santos-Quintero waived his right to a jury and will be judged by District Judge Darren Simpson.

The trial began with a presentation of evidence that included the stolen handgun allegedly used in the shooting, the bullet taken from Howell’s body and the ballistic vest Howell was wearing when he was shot Sept. 22, 2018.

The trial proceeded with testimony from Idaho State Police Detective Josh Tuttle who described ISP’s investigation into the shooting. He said investigators were able to identify the owner of the Ruger 9E 9mm pistol allegedly used to shoot Howell and explained the bullet taken from Howell’s body was a 9mm round.

The owner of the pistol testified about what happened the day his gun was stolen from his car in the Ammon Walmart parking lot. He said as soon as he saw the pistol was gone, he filed a report with authorities. He identified the gun presented as evidence as the same gun taken from his vehicle.

Another man told about how he was returning from a hunting trip and was driving through Wolverine Canyon on his way to Firth when he came up behind a blue car with a white door.

He said the car swerved across the center line of the road multiple times. At one point, the driver stuck his arm out the window and began shooting a gun into the air.

The man called police and followed the car all the way to a home in Firth.

A photo of the entry wound in Srgt. Todd Howell’s side. | Mike Price, EastIdahoNews.com

Howell took the stand and detailed everything he remembered from the day he was shot.

He said he received a priority call about shots being fired around 5:30 p.m. He arrived at the Firth residence at 6. He and two other deputies were the first to arrive at the scene.

WATCH: Deputy had no idea he had been shot by wanted suspect

Deputy Brock Katseanes began calling for anyone in the house to come out with their hands up. At one point, Denise Lynn Williams, 25, came out of the house and said no one else was inside.

Williams was wanted on multiple Bonneville County robbery warrants at the time of the event.

Howell said he heard calls from the back of the house that one of the deputies had made contact with a suspect. Howell ran to the back of the house and as he went around the corner, he saw the back door was open but couldn’t see inside.

He went to cross toward the deputies who were taking cover behind a tree. Shots rang out and Howell was hit. He said he hit the ground and began checking for blood. He didn’t see any and he rolled over and returned fire. He called out over the radio saying he’d been shot.

When he was first examined at the scene, an entry wound wasn’t found. He was rushed to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center where an entry wound was found in his left side.

RELATED | Deputy returns to work nearly 5 months after being shot

Howell said the bullet appeared to have penetrated through the side of his vest in the seam between the kevlar. The bullet went through his left side, chipped his spinal column and lodged into the abdominal wall on the left side of his body.

Days later, the bullet was finally removed by surgeons who went through the left side of Howell’s body to remove it.

Partway through giving his testimony, Howell asked if he could stand. He explained, after being shot, that he is unable to remain seated for a long period of time because of back spasms. He said he deals with constant pain due to the wound.

After Howell’s testimony, the other two deputies, Katseanes and Jakob Van Orden, testified and gave their perspectives of what happened that day.

When Williams was called to testify against Santos-Quintero, she refused to answer any of the 13 questions posed to her by the prosecution despite being given immunity from being incriminated by anything she said.

Williams is being held by Bonneville County for multiple battery and theft charges. The immunity Bonneville County Deputy Prosecutor Tanner Crowther gave Williams would have prevented the testimony she gave against Santos-Quintero from being used against her in her Bonneville County cases.

Simpson held Williams in contempt of court, which carries a possible penalty of up to five days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Bingham County Prosecutor Paul Rodgers said there are a total of 29 witnesses to call. He said the trial is likely to go through Thursday.

EastIdahoNews.com will continue to deliver updates on the trial.

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