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Idaho Falls dad of 4 mistakenly shot dead by cops looking for suspect w/ gun

Joseph Johnson Idaho Falls
Pictured, Joseph Johnson Idaho Falls man with his wife and their four children who was mistaken for wanted suspect, Tanner Shoesmith amd mistakenly shot dead while holding gun.
Joseph Johnson Idaho Falls
Pictured, Joseph Johnson Idaho Falls man with his wife and their four children who was mistaken for wanted suspect, Tanner Shoesmith and mistakenly shot dead while holding gun.

Joseph Johnson Idaho Falls man mistaken for wanted suspect, Tanner Shoesmith is shot dead while holding gun in his own backyard by pursing Idaho police officer. 

An Idaho Falls man was shot and killed by a police officer in his own backyard after being mistaken for a wanted suspect as he held a gun at his home earlier this week.

Joseph ‘Joe’ Johnson a 37 year old married father-of-four who had recently relocated his family from California in search of a ‘better life’ was identified as the victim.

The fatal officer-involved shooting took place in Idaho Falls early Monday morning as police scoured a residential neighborhood in search of a man with a history of violence against law enforcement who had fled a traffic stop and said to be armed. 

During the manhunt, a police officer came upon a man carrying a gun standing in a yard and opened fire, killing the innocent man.

According to the description of a GoFundMe campaign launched by Charles Johnson, the victim’s father, his son, daughter-in-law and their four children had only recently moved from his native Sacramento, California, to Idaho Falls. 

‘He moved his family to Idaho for a better life,’

‘He moved his family to Idaho for a better life,’ wrote the father. ‘They just bought a house. They were so happy.’

According to information posted on Facebook, Johnson and his wife, Bree, had been married for 11 years. They have three daughters and a son. 

Neighbors speaking to The Daily Beast described Johnson as a doting dad.

‘He’s a really good friend,’ one neighbor told the outlet. ‘He was very loving. His children and wife adored him, and he adored them. He was a great dad.’

Of note, the victim’s mother, Tammy Johnson confirmed her son’s death in a Facebook comment on Tuesday, which coincided with her birthday.   

Police have not officially identified the victim of the shooting, only saying that he was white, while the officer who killed him was Hispanic.  

‘There are no words to express how heavy our hearts are today,’ said Chief Bryce Johnson. ‘This situation is devastatingly tragic for the family, for the officer, and those that love and care about them. We all feel the weight of what has occurred today. Our sincere sympathies are with the family and friends of those involved, and most especially the family of the deceased.’

Joseph Johnson Idaho Falls
Pictured, Joseph Johnson Idaho Falls man with his Sacramento mother.

Father of four was not a suspect of any crime

Johnson stressed during a press conference this week that the shooting victim was not a suspect in any crime.  

According to a press release from the Idaho Police Department, events leading up to the mistaken shooting, unfolded after midnight, when a Bonneville County Sheriff’s deputy attempted to pull over a car for a broken taillight.  

The vehicle stopped on the corner of Lincoln Drive off of 1st Street and a male passenger, identified on Tuesday as 22-year-old Tanner Shoesmith, jumped out and ran into a residential neighborhood, where he scaled a fence in someone’s backyard and disappeared from view. 

The deputy followed and radioed for help, letting other officers know that the suspect was wearing a black shirt and khaki pants. 

Several deputies and Idaho Falls police officers joined the manhunt. As they were searching the area, a resident on Holbrook Drive told them they had seen the suspect run through their yard and that they believed he was armed with a gun.

During the search, a police officer spoke with another resident on the corner of Tendoy Drive and Syringa Drive, telling him that law enforcement officers were looking for a suspect, and that they would be in the area for some time.

Tanner Shoesmith
Pictured Idaho Falls suspect, Tanner Shoesmith.

Wanted suspect had multiple warrants including felony battery of officer

Meanwhile, police learned that Shoesmith had multiple warrants out for his arrest, including felony battery on an officer, and two failure to appear warrants with original charges of resisting arrest, and providing false information to law enforcement. 

Cops spoke to a woman who was in the car with Shoesmith, and she showed them a message she had received from him sharing his GPS location, reported East Idaho News. 

Police used the information to pinpoint the location of the suspect, which showed him in the backyard of a home on the corner of Tendoy Drive and Syringa Drive.

Officers and deputies surrounded the residence and backyard to stop the suspect from fleeing.

‘Due to the information that the suspect may be armed, and a prior history of violence when interacting with police officers, law enforcement personnel entered the location with their service weapons drawn,’ according to the release.

Officers heard yelling and approached the backyard where they encountered a man wearing a black shirt armed with a firearm. They ordered the man, later identified as Joseph Johnson, to drop his weapon. 

‘We do not currently have the answers as to what exactly occurred during these moments,’ said Chief Johnson. ‘We do know that during this interaction, an Idaho Falls Police Officer discharged his service weapon firing one shot which struck the man.

Police and paramedics tried to save Johnson’s life but he died from his injuries. 

Law enforcement later determined that the deceased man was not the suspect but was the resident of the home. He was the same person an officer had spoken to earlier about the manhunt. 

Joseph 'Joe' Johnson Idaho Falls
Pictured, Joseph ‘Joe’ Johnson Idaho Falls man with wife and their four children.

A death that could have been avoided? Did police follow appropriate protocol? 

Shortly after the shooting, a deputy reported seeing a man running through the area. Officers and deputies tracked this man to a nearby home, where he was found hiding in a shed in the backyard. 

Sgt. Bryan Lovell said Shoesmith did not have a gun in his possession at the time of his arrest, reported Idaho State Journal.  

The man was positively identified as Shoesmith and was taken into custody. He was then booked into the county jail on the three outstanding warrants as well as a new misdemeanor charge for resisting arrest.

The entire incident – from the traffic stop to the arrest – lasted 20 minutes the dailymail reported.

The Idaho Falls officer who fired the fatal shot has been placed on administrative leave and will not return to duty during the investigation. 

The officer was wearing a body camera during the incident. That footage, along with all other body camera and dashboard camera footage from officers on scene, will be handed over to the Eastern Idaho Critical Incident Task Force, which was called to conduct the investigation. 

Once the task force, led in this case by Idaho State Police, concludes its investigation, which could take weeks or months, the results will be turned over to the Bonneville County prosecutor, who will review the case and make a determination regarding whether the shooting was legally justified. 

At the same time, the Idaho Falls Police Department will be conducting an internal affairs investigation. As part of the process, a Use of Force Review Board, which includes two civilians, will determine whether departmental policies and procedures were followed, and make recommendations to the chief. 

The chief will then make a final determination regarding whether or not the shooting  was within the bound of departmental policy, and whether any disciplinary actions are appropriate. 

‘The Idaho Falls Police Department has core values, one of those values being integrity,’ Chief Johnson stated. ‘As we define integrity it means being honest and truthful at all times, even when the truths we have to tell may be difficult. Today, the truths we have to share with the community are difficult and incredibly tragic.’

As of Wednesday, the name of the officer who fatally shot Joseph Johnson has not been released, East Idaho News reported.