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Boise police who fired 68 rounds at armed man acted in self-defense, report says

Crime Watch

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Benjamin Christian Barnes, 42, was shot and killed in March 2017 after police said he threatened multiple people and dogs in the Hulls Gulch area. Barnes shot and killed one family’s dog before exchanging gunfire with Boise police officers, the Idaho Statesman previously reported.

Now, five years later, Boise’s police accountability office released a four-page investigative report on the shooting that cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.

The officers’ actions were previously deemed “completely justified” by Blaine County Prosecutor Jim J. Thomas in October 2017. All shootings by Boise police officers are investigated and reviewed by a prosecutor.

City officials announced last month they would issue news releases when an investigation is complete after the Statesman published an article detailing how the office, under Director Jesus Jara, released six reports on Boise Police Department shootings without notifying the public.

The Office of Police Accountability on Monday also released a report on an alleged carjacking turned vehicle pursuit in October 2020. The report determined that despite an officer using “an extreme measure” to stop the carjacker’s vehicle, he “acted in a manner consistent with BPD’s police and procedures,” according to the report.

On Oct. 27, 2020, a Boise police officer rammed Laithon Dallas Webb’s vehicle head-on with his squad car to end the pursuit, according to the report. The detail had not been disclosed before Monday.

Webb also had bandaged gunshot wounds when he arrived at the hospital, but prior news releases and Monday’s report have not disclosed how he was shot.

See body camera video of the shooting here.

The six-page report states that an extreme measure — like ramming a suspect’s car — needs to have prior authorization by the incident commander and is only used when other means have failed or are impractical. The officer, identified as “Officer #7,” asked if he could ram the stolen vehicle. His lieutenant told him to use a pursuit intervention technique, which is used to force a vehicle sideways — a less extreme method of stopping a vehicle.

The officer did not have permission to ram Webb’s vehicle, but “the conditions he faced with the failure of other methods to stop the subject, plus the subject’s refusal to stop, left him with ramming as the best forced-stop option at that moment to end the pursuit,” according to the report.

The officer was interviewed for the report. During the pursuit, the officer said he believed ramming was also authorized under the same protocol as a PIT, according to the report. Given Webb’s speed, he thought a PIT maneuver would have fallen under deadly force, the officer said.

Throughout the pursuit, an officer attempted to use spike strips, but it failed. Webb was taken into police custody.

The suspects and officers were unnamed in the reports. The Statesman was able to match details from the reports using the unique circumstances of both cases.

Jara previously told the Statesman the vagueness of the reports is mandated. The ordinance creating the accountability office requires that no names or identifying information of anyone involved be included.

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