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Names released in two related shooting incidents at Hurricanes Bar

Crime Watch

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IDAHO FALLS —- The recent arrest of an Idaho Falls man has shed new light on two shooting incidents at a local bar.

Idaho Falls Police reports show officers were called to Hurricanes Bar around 12:45 a.m. on Sept. 11, after getting reports of a shooting. Shortly afterward, at the same location, an officer-involved shooting occurred.

Guns at the bar fight

Court documents released Wednesday say the incident began when a fight broke out in the parking lot outside Hurricanes Bar on North Holmes.

The fight included multiple men, including Juan Manuel Gonzalez, 29, and Levi Bautista, 21.

Gonzalez was arrested Wednesday after Bonneville County prosecutors charged him with felony aggravated battery and aggravated assault. Although Gonzalez is charged in connection to the incident, he is not the man shot by officers during a chase after the initial shooting.

Court documents show that during the argument, Bautista held a pistol in his hand. Gonzalez reportedly walked past the men fighting, got into his car and got a handgun. Bautista then ran across the street toward the Elk’s Lodge, and Gonzalez fired his gun at least once.

Bautista returned fire toward Gonzalez. The bullets hit vehicles while Gonzalez hid behind one, according to court documents. Gonzalez then went back to his car to give his gun to a man, who hid the gun in his pants. Police do not know the identity of the third man, so EastIdahoNews.com will refer to him as John for clarity in this story.

RELATED | Suspect in critical condition following early morning shooting in Idaho Falls

Suspect from Bar
‘John,’ the unknown suspect tied to an incident at Hurricane’s Bar in Idaho Falls on Sept. 11. A fight turned into a shooting which Idaho Falls Police responded to. After confronting a suspect with a gun, an officer-involved shooting followed. | Courtesy Idaho Falls Police

Gonzalez went back to the bar and went out with John.

John was in front when security camera footage shows him hitting another unknown individual in the back of the head. As the victim tried to stand up, Gonzalez allegedly struck him in the face, knocking him down again.

The victim received a broken jaw in the encounter, according to medical records Madison Memorial Hospital provided to police.

Bautista shot

After shooting back at Gonzalez, Bautista drove away from the bar. When the Idaho Falls Police Department began pursuing Bautista’s vehicle, he drove back toward the bar. Bautista was stopped when officers used a PIT maneuver near Whittier Street and North Freeman Avenue. Bautista got out of the vehicle and ran.

That’s when the officer-involved shooting took place.

According to Idaho Falls police in a news release Wednesday, Bautista had a gun in his hand when an officer shot him. No one else was hurt in the shooting.

“The most recent information available to law enforcement is that Bautista remains hospitalized, but is no longer in critical condition,” police said.

Officer on modified duty

Police said the officer who fired his gun and hit Bautista was Mitch Bierma. Bierma joined the department in 2015, is a K9 handler and an arrest control/defensive tactics instructor.

The East Idaho Critical Incident Task Force investigated the officer-involved shooting portion of the incident. IFPD says the task force finished its investigation and handed that information over to the Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office, which will determine if Bierma was legally justified in shooting Bautista.

IFPD spokeswoman Jessica Clements says Bierma was placed on administrative leave but is now on modified duty, but not exercising his police powers.

What’s next in court

A search of Batuisita’s criminal history shows he was placed into a rider program in March after pleading guilty to felony aggravated assault. Bautista shot a BB gun at another driver after getting into an argument in a parking lot with a stranger.

After Bautista completed rider program, District Judge Bruce Pickett placed him on six years of probation in July. A probation violation was filed on Oct. 1.

Gonzalez made his initial court appearance Wednesday. He was released from the Bonneville County Jail after posting $75,000 bail.

Although Gonzalez is accused of a crime, it does not necessarily mean he committed it. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Police released the photo of “John” above on Wednesday. His identity is unknown, and anyone with information about him is encouraged to contact Idaho Falls Police Department at (208) 529-1200. If you have information on his identity and want to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward, you may also report the information to Crime Stoppers at www.ifcrime.org.

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