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Judge rules on East Idaho News petition, orders release of redacted school shooting documents

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RIGBY — A district judge has ordered that investigative records related to the Rigby Middle School shooting last year be released to East Idaho News and to the public.

The order was issued by Judge Stevan H. Thompson this week in a nine-page decision that explored arguments for withholding or releasing specific investigative documents. Thompson’s decision was in response to a petition filed by East Idaho News in January.

East Idaho News sued Jefferson County after being denied public records from the county sheriff’s office. We asked for redacted 911 calls from the May 6 shooting incident and a redacted investigation report written by the sheriff’s office.

Given the massive impact the shooting had on the community, East Idaho News management felt that at least some details of the investigation and the case should be made public. At the very least, we believe citizens are entitled to know the sequence of events that occurred that day and how the situation was handled by local law enforcement and government entities. We also think the public is entitled to know the outcome of the case, including what charges were filed, whether there was a conviction and the suspect’s sentence.

Jefferson County Prosecutor Mark Taylor denied the request based on his concern that the documents were juvenile court records, which had been previously sealed from the public by the judge presiding over the juvenile criminal case.

RELATED | Why EastIdahoNews.com is suing for public records about a school shooting

In his order, Thompson ultimately disagreed with Taylor’s assessment and determined the documents should be open to the public under the Idaho Public Records Act.

In his brief, he stressed the importance of redacting identifying information from the records.

“The court is concerned with an unwarranted invasion of privacy for the victims, the juvenile, and all the teachers, staff and students of the school who were all impacted by this traumatic incident and named in the requested documents,” Thompson wrote.

To protect those involved, Thompson ordered the 911 calls be transcribed and all names removed from the transcriptions. Additionally, all names will be removed from the sheriff’s investigation report, except for those of law enforcement officers.

These redactions reflect East Idaho News’s original public information request. Throughout this entire process, our news organization has promised to not publish the name of the juvenile shooter, which we have known since May, or any identifying information about her family.

Now that the order has been issued, Jefferson County will begin the redaction process and then turn over the documentation.

For more information about the legal arguments in this case, refer to the documents below.

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