Deputies cleared in fatal officer-involved shooting. Here’s what prosecutors say happened.
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AMMON — Prosecutors say two Bonneville County Sheriff deputies were justified in shooting and killing a man outside an apartment in December.
“The only reasonable reaction” for Bonneville County Sheriff Deputies Dino Vidal and Deputy Cooper Merrill was to use lethal force against 21-year-old Peter K. England, Bonneville County Prosecutor Daniel Clark and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Adam Garving said in a release sent to EastIdahoNews.com on Wednesday.
Investigators say during the Dec. 30 incident, England pointed a gun at the deputies as he emerged from behind a parked car, giving Vidal and Merrill “no opportunity to attempt to de-escalate or utilize less-lethal means.” England died after receiving a fatal shot from one of the deputies’ guns, according to prosecutors.
The information released by prosecutors comes from interviews, body camera footage and other evidence.
Deputies came across England around 3:45 a.m. after an Idaho Falls Police officer spotted England’s black Mercedes SUV speed out of the Tiger Street Apartments. England then drove back into the apartments before leaving again, raising the suspicions of officers.
Police left, then drove back to Tiger Avenue and found the Mercedes. After passing the officer in the road, the driver of the SUV stopped, turned on its hazard lights and then speed away again. Officers kept looking for England’s Mercedes, eventually finding it at 12th Street and Woodruff Avenue.
An Idaho Falls Police officer turned on his emergency lights, prompting England to speed off at 50 mph. With icy roads, police called off the pursuit.
Law enforcement in Idaho Falls were familiar with England. Vidal listened to his police radio as events unfolded and knew England lived at an apartment on Falcon Drive in Ammon. Vidal also knew England carried guns and had previous violent encounters with others, according to prosecutors.
“At one point, Merrill also heard an IFPD officer say over the radio that the suspect might be trying ambush or set up law enforcement, based on his actions of stopping and then fleeing when police got close,” according to prosecutors.
Knowing England had just run from police, Vidal spotted England and followed the man toward his apartment. Once at the apartments, England left the SUV in the middle of the parking lot, stepped out and left the door open. Merrill also arrived at the apartments.
England walked between cars, before moving back towards his own car. As this happened, Vidal spotted England hold up a black pistol pointed directly at the deputy’s face.
“Vidal yelled — ‘Hands! Show me your hands!’ — drew his weapon and fired four rounds while moving so that he was not in the same position and location,” the statement from prosecutors reads.
Merrill reportedly saw this happen, prompting him to fire one shot. As England went back behind a car, Merrill fired his gun again, thinking England put himself in a place to fight. Deputies moved in and found England laying on his back with the gun near him.
A woman who said she was a nurse came over and deputies and police tried to save England’s life, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
“Other than law enforcement officers, no witness saw the initial contact between England and the deputies,” according to the memorandum. “A number of witnesses heard shots and commands to show hands.”
The Eastern Idaho Critical Incident Task Force was called in to investigate. After completing their report, they turned over the information to Clark’s office in February.
A friend of England gave investigators England’s Snapchat posts showing him shooting guns inside and outside the Mercedes. Another Snapchat showed four handguns and a shotgun. The final post is believed to have been sent after police first spotted England and read, “Goodby all my friends.” EastIdahoNews.com received a screenshot of the message the morning of the shooting.
Investigators looked at England’s phone and found text messages reading; “Idaho state cop is the best”, “I will never go back to jail”, “Them or me will drop down next time,” “Thank you Francisco, You always be my best friend,” and “When you need help with cop call me.”
“Law enforcement officers, identical to any citizen, are allowed to use deadly force when it is reasonably believed that someone poses a risk of great bodily harm to themselves or another,” prosecutors wrote. “Officers are also justified in using deadly force to overcome resistance when they have probable cause to believe the resistance poses a threat of death or serious physical injury to the officers or other persons.”