Prosecutor says officer was justified in fatally shooting knife-wielding man outside grocery store
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PRESTON — Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Vic A. Pearson said Deputy Kelly Biggs’ was justified when he fatally shot a man in November.
In a Critical Incident Task Force Memorandum sent to EastIdahoNews.com, Pearson says an officer is allowed to use deadly force if there’s probable cause to believe the resistance poses serious physical injury or a threat of death to officers or other people.
The man who was shot and killed was Raul Antonio Menjivar-Saabedra. The memo says he had just been released from a Behavioral Health Unit in Logan, Utah for suicidal ideations after approximately a one week stay.
Police documents state that on Nov. 19, around 8:37 p.m., Stokes Marketplace in Preston called the Franklin County Dispatch Center about a suspicious male inside the store.
Preston Police Officer Tuyen Nguyen responded to the call and made contact with Saabedra. Nguyen struggled to communicate with him because Saabedra didn’t speak English. Franklin County Deputy Dustin Olsen is fluent in Spanish and was called to assist.
“Deputy Olsen began speaking with Saabedra and it became immediately apparent that he was mentally unstable,” the letter says. “He was stating he was going to be tortured and killed by unknown individuals from the Grace, Idaho area associated with the church because he had sinned.”
Saabedra showed a 13-inch kitchen knife that was taken from Stokes and concealed in his jacket. Olsen convinced him to put the knife in a plastic bag in a shopping cart, along with some of his personal items already in there.
According to the letter, Saabedra continued to show signs of “paranoia” as he pointed at shoppers in the store and said they were there to kill him. In Spanish, he told Olsen, “I prefer that you guys kill me because you are police officers instead of them because they are going to torture me.”
Saabedra said people were going to kill him approximately 25 times because of the sins he committed. He requested law enforcement kill him eight times, according to the memo. Olsen told him each time officers were not going to do that.
One of Saabedra’s church leaders arrived at the grocery store and said if he went with him, he would drive him back to the hospital. Saabedra refused and wouldn’t leave the store without the knife. He was escorted to a cash register to pay for his items, including the knife.
Saabedra exited the store around 9:30 p.m. and officers continued to talk with him outside. Saabedra pulled out his knife and officers repeatedly asked him to put it down. The report says he refused.
“Saabedra began to pray and Deputy Olsen advised the other officers to be ready because he felt something was going to happen,” the letter says.
He took several steps towards Deputy Olsen and Chief Dan McCammon before stopping. He then turned and began walking toward Biggs, who arrived on the scene.
Biggs told Saabedra to “stop right there” three times, but with the knife in his hand, he continued to move “towards him aggressively.”
Biggs, Olsen and Nguyen used a Taser on Saabedra. It temporarily stopped him from approaching Biggs but the letter says his clothes likely prevented the Taser prongs from properly attaching.
Saabedra headed south of Stokes Market before proceeding into the middle of Highway 91. The letter says Nguyen and Olsen told Saabedra multiple times to drop the knife and “don’t do it.”
“At this point, Saabedra stepped slowly towards Deputy Biggs with a few small steps and then sprinted towards him with the knife,” the letter says.
Biggs shot Saabedra in the shoulder area, but the report says he wouldn’t stop coming at him. Biggs fired two more shots and Saabedra fell to the ground on his stomach. Nguyen rolled him to his side to “attempt life-saving measures” by clearing his airway and took the knife out of his hand.
An ambulance arrived at approximately 10:26 p.m. and the letter says he was “thereafter pronounced dead.”
“(Deputy Biggs) stated the tip of the blade was pointed in an upward direction and aggressive manner and felt that if he did not take some kind of action, he would not have gone home that night,” the letter says.
The letter states Nguyen did not fire his weapon because there was a vehicle in the line of fire behind Saabedra and Olsen “feared” Biggs could be killed.
“This appears to be a situation where Saabedra was attempting ‘suicide by cop’ and succeeded in his attempt,” the letter says. “The facts, in this case, reveal that Saabedra made himself a clear and immediate danger to Deputy Biggs who was engaged in the lawful performance of his duties.”
The Critical Incident Task Force investigated the shooting with the Pocatello Police Department as the lead agency.