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Prosecutor says deputies were justified in Bingham County officer-involved shootings


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BLACKFOOT – The actions of Bingham County Sheriff’s deputies were justified in the agency’s last two officer-involved shootings, according to Bingham County Prosecutor Paul Rogers.

‘Using a car as both a sword and a shield’

The latest incident unfolded Nov. 23, when law enforcement found Nathaniel Harper at a storage facility on U.S. Highway 26 west of Blackfoot. Deputies were in the process of serving multiple arrest warrants on Harper, according to Roger’s report. The report was completed Tuesday, and obtained it Thursday.

RELATED | Man allegedly tries to hit officers with vehicle and is shot by police

Roger’s review of the case looks at any criminal liability the deputies faced after reviewing investigations by the Eastern Idaho Critical Incident Task Force. The multiagency task force of law enforcement officers investigates officer-involved shootings in the area in lieu of the agency involved in the incident.

The report shows when deputies tried taking Harper into custody that morning, they believed he had a gun and knew he recently had shot a man. Law enforcement had tried to take Harper into custody in the weeks before, and during a previous attempt, Harper had tried to run over a deputy with a vehicle before escaping.

A handful of Blackfoot officers and deputies arrived at the storage unit around 11 a.m. on Nov. 23. Detectives spoke with Harper, who was in a black Honda Civic, and told him to get out of the car.

When Harper reportedly refused to listen to deputies he drove the Honda toward them. A detective fired twice at the car, but Harper kept driving, narrowly missing the detective. A deputy had his rifle drawn, and fearing for the detective’s life, he fired the .223 rifle seven times, according to Rogers.

RELATED | Man who allegedly tried to run over police charged with felonies

Harper was reportedly struck in the shoulder but got out of the car and ran from law enforcement until he was taken into custody.

“Upon review of the reports and video evidence, it is clear that Harper violated his civic duty by refusing to submit to law enforcement without resistance,” Rogers wrote in his Tuesday report. “It is additionally clear that a person using a car as both a sword and a shield and attempting to drive into an officer poses a significant-threatening risk of physical injury or death to officers and in this specific case.”

Both deputies who fired the weapons were justified in using deadly force, knowing Harper posed a threat of death that morning, according to Rogers.

RELATED | Man shot by police faces even longer list of charges

After Harper was arrested, criminal charges in multiple cases were filed against him, including alleged assaults on the deputies for driving his car toward them. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is expected to go to trial in March and April, according to court records.

shot-up car
The car driven by Nathaniel Harper with bullet holes in the window. | Eric Grossarth,

Man ‘posed a threat of death’ to officers and community

For months, the results of a second investigation into another officer-involved shooting where a suspect died remained unknown. A report by Rogers dated Nov. 5 and obtained by on Thursday gives new details about what happened.

A man called 911 around 7:50 a.m. on Aug. 4, saying a silver 2001 Chevy Impala ran a stop sign and crashed into his pickup truck in Blackfoot. The car did not stop. Terrance Knight was behind the wheel, according to the report.

A Blackfoot Police Department detective found the silver car and tried to perform a traffic stop. Knight continued to drive on and crashed into a camper parked in an alley. Knight and the passengers in his car, Cecelia Broncho and Sinjin Reyes, ran in different directions.

RELATED | One suspect in custody, another dead after shooting in Blackfoot

Two Bingham County Sheriff’s detectives dressed in blue polos with deputy badges hanging from their necks arrived and began chasing Knight running down Shilling Street. The pursuit continued as Knight ran behind a home and drew a handgun on one of the detectives.

As the detective drew his own handgun, Knight reportedly fired a stolen .380 Smith and Wesson, hitting the detective in the forearm. According to Roger’s report, being shot in the arm caused the detective to fire his own gun “unknowingly” with the bullet lodging itself into a nearby tree.

Knight fired three more times at the detective, and he took his own life with his gun, according to the investigation.

RELATED | Two suspects in custody in connection to deputy shooting

“(The detective) is justified in using deadly force as there was certainly probable cause that the resistance put on by Knight posed a threat of death to all of the officers and the surrounding community of Shilling Street during the incident,” Rogers wrote. “Had Knight survived, I would be pursuing charges for attempted murder, battery on an officer with a deadly weapon, felony eluding and accidents involving damage to a vehicle, among other potential charges of theft of various levels.”

The detective was taken to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, where he was treated for the gunshot wound and then released shortly afterward.

RELATED | Authorities identify suspects and man found dead in Blackfoot law enforcement incident

A manhunt followed for Broncho and Reyes, and both were taken into custody. A search of public court records shows both were not charged in connection to the events on Aug. 4.