Idaho Falls group holds rally to protest police violence
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IDAHO FALLS – A series of recent officer-involved shootings throughout eastern Idaho prompted a local group to hold a rally in Idaho Falls Saturday afternoon.
Members of a group called Citizens for Accountability, Advocacy and Public Safety held a protest on the Broadway Bridge in Idaho Falls from 2 to 2:30 p.m. to speak out against police violence.
“We’re a group of people concerned about the state of shootings across eastern Idaho, and we’re especially frustrated with the Idaho Falls Police Department and the shooting that happened a couple weeks ago (involving Joe Johnson and Officer Elias Cerdas) ,” Event co-organizer Jeremy Herman tells EastIdahoNews.com.
Investigators saw a surge of officer-involved shootings across eastern Idaho over a 10-day period earlier this month. Shootings have occurred in Pocatello, Rexburg and Bingham County, all requiring the resources of the Eastern Idaho Critical Incident Task Force, which investigates these cases.
Idaho Falls resident Joe Johnson was shot and killed in his backyard in the early morning hours of Feb. 8 while officers were in pursuit of 22-year-old Tanner Shoesmith who ran from a traffic stop. Shoesmith was allegedly armed, and had a violent history with law enforcement.
During the incident, police encountered Johnson, who lived in the area. Johnson was armed and dressed similar to Shoesmith. It’s not clear exactly what happened, but during the incident, Officer Elias Cerdas shot and killed Johnson.
“This is an officer who recently completed training,” Herman says. “Those trainings and those policies should have prevented a tragedy like this from occurring. From my conversations with the mayor and the police chief over the last year — which they told me is based on commanding and controlling the situation, rather than taking cover, approaching cautiously and trying to avoid shooting — there seems to be no interest in changing the culture of shoot first and ask questions later.”
Herman hopes disciplinary action is taken against the officer responsible for shooting the victim. He’s calling on the mayor and police chief to reform the police department’s policy on handling shootings to prevent something like this from happening again.
Idaho Falls Police Department spokeswoman Jessica Clements says she can’t speak to this specific incident right now because it is still under investigation but the police department does not have a policy that involves shooting first and asking questions later.
“We need the results of that investigation in order to assess if current policies and training were or were not followed and consequently, if current policies and training are or are not the best they can be,” Clements says. “Making changes to policies and training based on incomplete data and partial details doesn’t make sense and wouldn’t result in meaningful or best practice policies, which is what we all want.”
Clements says it’s hard to be patient given how tragic the situation is and their goal is to be open and honest with the public.
“Truly, we want to answer these questions. Right now we are waiting for more information so we can do that,” says Clements.
A timeline for when the investigation will be complete has not been released.
Herman says there was a lot of support from the community during Saturday’s rally. About 20 people showed up to the event. Others involved in organizing it include Kimberly Zwygart, Elizabeth Cogliati and Katrin Lepler.