Trial set to begin for officer accused of killing man in backyard shooting
IDAHO FALLS — A trial is set to begin Monday morning for an Idaho Falls Police officer accused of shooting and killing a man last year.
Elias Aurelio Cerdas is charged with felony involuntary manslaughter after he allegedly shot Joseph “Joe” Johnson in Johnson’s backyard during a February 2021 manhunt. A grand jury indicted Cerdas in July and the Idaho Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case.
The Idaho Falls Police Department previously said the incident began with a traffic stop. A Bonneville County Sheriff’s deputy pulled over Tanner Shoesmith, 22, for a broken taillight a few blocks from Johnson’s home. When Shoesmith ran, a manhunt followed, with more deputies and officers flooding the neighborhood.
Police say a resident spotted the suspect running through a yard and believed he was carrying a gun. That information was conveyed to officers on their radios. As police searched for Shoesmith, they learned he had several warrants for his arrest and a violent history with law enforcement, including a warrant for felony battery on an officer.
Another Idaho Falls Police officer spoke with Johnson, saying they were looking for a person who ran from a traffic stop and would be in the neighborhood.
A short time later, GPS coordinates from Shoesmith’s phone placed him in Johnson’s backyard, leading police to surround the home and draw their weapons. As officers moved in, police said they heard yelling and then found a man — Johnson — carrying a gun. Officials say Johnson was wearing a black shirt — the same color as the suspect — when Cerdas pulled the trigger.
Shoesmith was later found hiding in a shed a block away from the shooting.
Since the shooting, Cerdas has remained an employee with the department but was put on “limited duties which do not include public contact or the use of police authority,” according to a previous IFPD news release.
Bree Johnson, Johnson’s wife of 19 years, filed a tort claim last year stating she intends to sue Cerdas and the city of Idaho Falls for her husband’s death. The claim accused the Idaho Falls Police Department of not properly training Cerdas.
Jury selection is set to begin at 9 a.m. at the Bonneville County Courthouse. The trial is scheduled to last at least seven days.
EastIdahoNews.com will have reporters in the courtroom posting regular updates.