How has one man caused three IFPD SWAT responses? We looked into it. - East Idaho News
Crime Watch

How has one man caused three IFPD SWAT responses? We looked into it.

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IDAHO FALLS — An Idaho Falls man has caused not one, not two, but three SWAT team responses in five months. took the time to figure out how and why this happened – and if it could happen again.

On April 8, 46-year-old Robert Flores Jr. was arrested following a standoff that unfolded at the Econo Lodge on 1448 West Broadway Street. Flores allegedly barricaded himself in a hotel room and fired shots at officers, prompting the SWAT team to intervene.

The incident led to the evacuation of numerous guests, who were displaced from their rooms for over five hours. He is currently being held on a $1 million bond.

Flores was charged with six counts of aggravated assault on law enforcement officers and unlawful possession of a firearm. Flores is also charged with misdemeanor resisting officers and trespassing.

If he is found guilty of aggravated assault, Flores could be looking at up to 10 years in jail. If he used a gun, he could get an additional 15 years, making it possible to be sentenced to up to 25 years for each charge. Bonneville County Prosecutor Randy Neal says he plans to ask for a persistent violator enhancement, meaning he could spend up to life in prison.

Court records reveal a staggering tally: Flores has been charged in 63 criminal cases in Idaho since 1993. The list of charges reads like a crime novelist’s notebook, featuring missed court dates and robbery, evading police, drug possession, escapes from custody, and violations of no-contact orders, among other charges.

Flores had three separate bail amounts adding up to $150,000, pending from three cases out of Bonneville and Bingham counties at the time of the shooting at the Econo Lodge.

Neal says part of the reason Flores was able to be released from jail so many times before the recent shooting is that he received an “unexpected” amount of money, possibly like an inheritance, which allowed him to pay his bail multiple times.

“Typically, that would’ve been pretty difficult for someone to accomplish,” says Neal.

Neal also says that some local bail bondsman companies are offering staggeringly low rates for incarcerated people to get out of jail – as low as 1-5%.

RELATED | Bail vs. bond: What’s the difference and how does the process work?

For instance, if your bail is $100,000, you could potentially pay $1,000 to a bondsman and be released. The bondsman is now on the hook for the rest of your bail but does not have to pay it if you continue to attend your court hearings, according to Neal.

A sworn statement written by an Idaho Falls Police detective contains interesting details of Flores’ past encounters with police that led to mass responses.

The statement says Flores was released from a prison sentence at the Idaho Department of Corrections in October, having been previously convicted of felony aggravated assault and felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

SWAT response #1

The first SWAT response for Flores occurred in December after he allegedly assaulted two healthcare workers – one he knew personally and another who attempted to intervene – plus a third woman.

Flores was charged with two counts of felony battery against healthcare workers and felony burglary, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

RELATED | Idaho Falls man arrested in early-morning SWAT team response

On Dec. 26, police were called to a home on the 500 block of K Street after a woman reported he had attacked her.

Flores barricaded himself inside the home around 12:30 a.m., causing a large multi-agency response, including IFPD SWAT, that eventually ended in his arrest.

RELATED | New details on Sunday morning arrest after SWAT team response

In this case, Flores’ bail was set at $50,000, which he paid on Feb. 2, and he was released from jail.

SWAT response #2

On Feb. 21, new charges were filed against Flores for witness intimidation, first-degree stalking, and two counts of violating a no-contact order.

On Feb. 24, around 12:27 a.m., Flores barricaded himself inside a house with a woman in the area of K Street and Canal Avenue, prompting another SWAT team response.

RELATED | Two people arrested after two-hour standoff with Idaho Falls Police

The woman came out of the house around 3 a.m. and was detained by police.

To get Flores out of the home, the SWAT team eventually used tear gas. Flores exited a short time later.

He was arrested and again given a bail of $50,000. But on Feb. 27, prosecutors filed a motion to have it revoked “based on violating conditions of release after being charged with new crimes against the same victim.”

His bond was then revoked, and the court ordered a no-bond hold. But on March 8, Flores’ bond was decreased to $50,000, and he posted bail for two open cases on March 21 for a total of $100,000. He was later released from jail.

According to a news release from Bonneville County Prosecutor Randy Neal, “Bond is set by the judge based on several factors found in the court’s rules, but primarily involve threats to the community or risk of flight.”

Neal also says that a no-hold bond cannot usually continue for long, unless it is a severe case such as a murder. This comes from the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

Ultimately, Neal says, the bond amount someone is given is up to the discretion of the judge.

A SWAT response on April 8 at the Econo Lodge in Idaho Falls | Kaitlyn Hart,

SWAT response #3

The officer-involved shooting on April 8 is the third time the SWAT team has been called for Flores since December.

At the time Flores shot at police, he was out on bail for multiple open cases in Bonneville County, including two counts of felony battery on a health care worker, felony burglary, an enhancement for being a persistent violator, two no contact orders violations, felony first-degree stalking, and felony witness intimidation.

RELATED | This wasn’t the first SWAT standoff for man accused of shooting at police at Idaho Falls hotel

He was also out on bail from Bingham County for felony aggravated battery, felony attempted strangulation, and an enhancement for being a persistent violator.

Further court appearances have yet to be scheduled, and if convicted on the most recent charges, Flores could face life in prison.

IFPD perspective and officer safety

Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson says it’s frustrating for officers when a person who has proven to be dangerous – and skittish – repeatedly gets let out of jail.

“From a police officer’s perspective, it can be very frustrating. They often feel like they do everything they can,” says Johnson. “It’s human nature to feel frustrated, when you have to re-arrest people over and over again, but that’s not really unusual. That happens not just in this case, it’s happens in a lot of instances.”

Johnson tells it’s hard to quantify the effect that a case like this has not only emotionally on the community and it’s officers, but on taxpayer dollars as well.

“No one wants to build a new prison because it’s really expensive, but it’s also really expensive to deal with the ramifications of that out on the street,” says Johnson. “It’s really expensive to activate a SWAT team three times. It’s really expensive to have hospital guards on duty. There’s a whole lot of expenses getting pushed onto the city and the police department. So I think there’s a balance in there somewhere.”

According to Johnson, the court system is designed to get people out of jail, not keep them in, which often leads to an abundance of re-arrests.

“There’s more to the system than just us,” says Johnson. “You have to trust that system, but sometimes from our perspectives it seems like we ought to hang onto some of these folks a little bit longer.”

Jonson says this case, in particular, hits closer to home as officers’ lives were put at risk due to Flores’ alleged actions.

“What’s unique about this one is it kind of brings all of the frustrations up to the top, because in this case we actually had gunfire shot at multiple IFPD officers. Now we’re talking about people’s lives,” says Johnson. “It is frustrating.”