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Rexburg police officer cleared in shooting that wounded driver

Crime Watch

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File photo | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

REXBURG — A Rexburg Police officer who fired multiple shots at a car rapidly approaching him has been cleared to return to work and will not be charged for the shooting.

Officer Bransen Devey “did not commit a criminal offense … and our office will not be filing any criminal charges,” according to a Dec. 30 letter from Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Sid Brown to Rexburg Police Chief Shane Turman. (Brown retired at the end of 2019, and Rob Wood is currently the county’s prosecutor.)

Devey was dispatched to an apartment at 222 West Second North around 1 a.m. on Oct. 22 after a woman called 911 and reported that her boyfriend, 22-year-old Ashtyne Lane Whiting, was angry.

“The caller stated her boyfriend was going to kill himself,” Turman said during an October news conference. “She stated it was really bad, that he’s drunk and might have a knife on him. The caller became frantic and stated, ‘Please have them come now. Please make them come now.’”

Whiting left the home in his car by the time Devey arrived, but seconds later, Whiting sped down the street in front of the apartment building. He stopped, revved his engine, turned around and sped toward the area where the officer was standing, according to Turman.

RELATED | Officer shot driver who was speeding toward him, police say

An investigative report obtained by EastIdahoNews.com shows Devey pulled out his handgun and fired 10 shots followed by an additional four. As Devey was firing, Whiting stopped the vehicle, and one bullet hit him in the left shoulder. He was taken to Madison Memorial Hospital and released a few hours later.

RELATED | One man injured after officer-involved shooting in Rexburg

Following the shooting, the East Idaho Critical Incident Task Force, led by the Idaho Falls Police Department, investigated the incident and interviewed Whiting, Devey, Whiting’s girlfriend, other officers who responded to the scene and witnesses.

When their investigation was complete, Brown and Turman asked Force Science Institute to review the case, focusing on the last four shots. The Illinois-based organization specializes in analyzing officer-involved shootings worldwide.

William Lewinski, the executive director of Force Science Institute, interviewed Devey and reviewed his bodycam footage along with investigative documents. In a five-page letter sent to Turman and Brown, Lewinski breaks down the bodycam footage to the 100th of a second. He concluded Devey’s actions were typical of others in similar situations.

“Officer Devey was attempting to stop the Whiting vehicle. His cadence of gunfire, the urgency of the situation, and the perceived need to stop this vehicle, as well as the visual and cognitive demands of the conditions and his need for a directed, focused response … are characteristic of an average officer in this type of situation,” Lewinski wrote.

Lewinski concluded his report mid-December, and Brown issued his decision.

“It is my conclusion that Ashtyne Whiting took actions and drove his vehicle in such a manner as to create in Officer Devey a well-founded and reasonable fear that his life, and possibly the life of (Whiting’s girlfriend), was in imminent danger,” Brown wrote. “Officer Devey was justified and acted reasonably in opening fire on the rapidly approaching vehicle. … I believe that all of the shots fired by Officer Devey were a result of Officer Devey’s perception of a continuing threat and his effort to bring the vehicle to a stop and end that threat.”

Following Brown’s decision, Turman convened an officer-involved shooting review board to determine if department policies were followed during the incident. The board concluded Devey acted appropriately, and he was permitted to come back to work.

“We found he was within the scope of the policy,” Turman tells EastIdahoNews.com. “He’s been on paid administrative leave, which is standard operating procedure to protect the officer and the department until we get all the findings back.”

Whiting was charged with misdemeanor DUI and told police he had drunk whiskey that evening. His blood-alcohol level was nearly double the legal limit when he was arrested, according to police documents. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

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