Man shot by officers sues city of Rexburg and its police department over 2019 incident
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REXBURG — A man shot by a Rexburg Police officer in 2019 has filed a lawsuit against the city, its police department and several officers.
Ashtyne Lane Whiting’s attorneys filed the federal lawsuit Wednesday, 21-months after then Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Sid Brown cleared Rexburg Police Officer Bransen Devey of any wrongdoing. Whiting is suing for an unspecified amount above $10,000 for damages he says he incurred after the Oct. 22, 2019, officer-involved shooting.
Whiting accuses the city and its officers of violating several of his rights and of violating laws, including that officers violated his Fourth Amendment right protecting him against unreasonable searches and seizures. The attorneys also claim the city engaged in malicious prosecution, failure to train, lack of policy, or having an unconstitutional policy.
The incident in question began when Devey responded to a 911 call on 222 West 2nd North around 1 a.m. A woman reported her boyfriend, Whiting, was angry, drunk, suicidal and possibly armed with a knife.
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, Rexburg Police Chief Shane Turman said at a 2019 news conference.
Believing he was in imminent danger, Devey drew his weapon and fired.
“Prior to firing upon Ashtyne, Officer Bransen (Devey) did not issue any command or warning to Ashtyne to stop or exit the car,” Whiting’s attorneys write in the lawsuit. “Furthermore, he did not even make himself known to Ashtyne.”
An investigative report obtained by EastIdahoNews.com shows Devey 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, and another grazed his calf. He was taken to Madison Memorial Hospital and released a few hours later.
“As a result of defendants’ tortious and unconstitutional behavior, Ashtyne suffered severe pain, lost a significant amount of blood, and had to undergo surgery to remove the bullet in his shoulder and to repair (his) other gunshot wounds,” the lawsuit alleges. “To date, Ashtyne continues to suffer the physical and mental trauma caused by Defendants’ unconstitutional and tortious conduct.”
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 and other officers who responded to the scene, as well as other witnesses.
When their investigation was complete, Brown and Turman asked the Force Science Institute in Illinois to review the case. The institute interviewed Devey, reviewed body camera footage and investigative documents. Experts with the organization deemed Devey’s actions were typical of others in similar situations.
“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 in a 2019 letter clearing the officer of criminal wrongdoing. “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.
Whiting was charged with misdemeanor DUI as he 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. However, the case was eventually dropped by the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office.
“As the officer defendants were the ones to decide to initially arrest and charge Ashtyne, they are the prosecutors for purposes of a claim for malicious prosecution,” the lawsuit alleges.
EastIdahoNews.com has reached out to Rexburg City Attorney Stephen Zollinger for comment. We will update this story if we received one.