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Idaho Falls police officer ‘very relieved’ after judge dismisses case against him

Idaho Falls

IDAHO FALLS — Day two of a trial for an Idaho Falls police officer accused of shooting and killing a man last year took an unexpected turn.

After a 90 minute delay, the jury entered the courtroom. District Judge Darren Simpson convened the proceedings by announcing the case against Elias Cerdas is dismissed on the condition that Cerdas complete 100 hours of firearm, use of force and supervised patrol training in the next year.

“During that time, he (Cerdas) will be on modified duty, which he is currently on,” Simpson said. “At the time it is completed, the case would be dismissed with prejudice, meaning it can not be refiled.”

If Cerdas does not complete the training in that timeframe, the case can be refiled and the trial would resume.

After thanking the jury and the attorneys for their efforts, court was adjourned. Cerdas and his attorney, Curtis Smith, embraced after hearing the outcome.

Cerdas was charged with felony involuntary manslaughter after he allegedly shot Joseph “Joe” Johnson in Johnson’s backyard during a February 2021 manhunt.

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On the steps of the Bonneville County Courthouse, EastIdahoNews.com spoke with Cerdas, Smith and his partner Dennis Wilkinson. Wilkinson did not speak about the specifics of the case or what transpired during that 90 minutes, but said it was the right outcome after a lot of work and people weighing their options.

Wilkinson pointed to his client and said he is “relieved for him and happy for his family.”

“I’m glad he’s going back to them (his family). I’m very pleased with the result,” said Wilkinson.

When asked how he was feeling, Cerdas responded simply, “Very relieved, sir. Very relieved.”

Smith says coming to a courthouse, listening to a case and having jurors come and give their support is “what justice is all about.”

“This is one that started and ended before it was handed to them but they were part of this process and we appreciate their service,” Smith says.

Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson also expressed his gratitude for the outcome and his faith in the criminal justice system. He briefly explained the review process that’s in place internally as Cerdas continues modified duty and moves forward.

“Until we’re completed with all that, we won’t really be talking a lot about the facts of the case. Some facts came out during the trial, but we’ll complete our process and then release the information like we usually do in all of our other shootings,” Johnson explains.

Johnson says some of the training will take place through the department but couldn’t talk specifics.

A written statement from the city of Idaho Falls offers similar thoughts about the judicial process and the outcome of the case.

“We are grateful to have a resolution to this case. We remain committed to best practices and providing the best training for our officers and will continue to do so as we move forward from here.”

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden praised the efforts of the prosecutors and investigators “who thoughtfully and professionally pursued justice” in this case. In a written statement Tuesday afternoon, he describes what happened as “a tragic series of events that ended with the death of a husband, father and community member,” and he acknowledges the efforts of everyone working together to find a solution that ensures “such a tragic scenario doesn’t play out again.”

Read Wasden’s full statement below:

This case originated from a tragic series of events that ended with the death of a husband, father and community member. My heart continues to go out to Mr. Johnson’s family for the loss they’ve endured.

Every day, Idaho law enforcement officers risk their own wellbeing to protect the public. By its nature, this work is dangerous and creates extremely difficult circumstances in which officers must make split-second decisions. This case reflects the difficulty of that work and magnifies what’s at stake when things go wrong.

I want to thank the prosecutors and investigators in my office who thoughtfully and professionally pursued justice based on the Rule of Law. I want to thank the grand jury, trial court and jury for their willingness to give this case the attention it deserved. Finally, I want to acknowledge the work on both sides in reaching a resolution that helps ensure such a tragic scenario doesn’t play out again.

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