Newly-released police dashcam video raises questions about the deadly shooting of a drunk man at the hands of a Nez Perce Tribal Police Officer.
The shooting happened on the evening of November 12th, 2011. Jeffrey Flinn was driving drunk when he crashed his car. Two hunters stopped to help him and Flinn stole their truck. He then led three separate law enforcement agencies – Idaho State Police, The Lewis County Sheriff's Office, and The Nez Perce Tribal Police – on a chase.
Spike strips laid down by ISP eventually stopped the stolen car. Police dashcam video shows Flinn open the driver's side door, sit facing outward and fire one shot from a weapon at officers. Officers respond by firing more than two dozen shots at Flinn. Flinn then exits the vehicle unarmed and with his hands above his head and then, for reasons that remain unclear, officers fired several more shots, hitting Flinn, who died at the scene.
As officers run up to the downed man in the video and are seen moving a weapon that was near Flinn to a location away from him. It was later determined that bullets from Tribal Officer Robert Wall killed Flinn.
Despite the evidence in the dashcam video, the Idaho U.S. Attorney's Office declined to pursue charges against Wall. The Lewis County Prosecutor later charged Wall with Voluntary Manslaughter, but this week a magistrate judge ruled there was insufficient evidence for the case to move forward.
Prosecutor Zachary Pall issued this statement to KXLY regarding the judge's ruling:
“While disappointed in the outcome of the Preliminary Hearing, we respect the judge’s decision in this matter. Given the evidence in this case, including video, the reactions of other officers on scene, and the fact that Mr. Flinn lost his life during the events of November 12, 2011, the Office of the Prosecutor felt that it was critical that the court system make the final determination in this case. Having a public hearing and the determination of an impartial magistrate accomplished that.”
Tribal Officer Wall seems to have the support of the Nez Perce Tribal Committee in this case. Chairman Silas Whitman said in a written statement said the shooting was justified and continued:
“Flinn fired on them with a loaded rifle in the cab and they [officers] returned fire.”
While the video evidence does show Flinn fired a shot before he stepped out of the car, it also shows that he was unarmed with his hands above his head when he was shot to death.
The prosecutor did not say if he'll appeal the judge's ruling or if he'll pursue different charges against Wall. Flinn's family is being represented by a Lewiston attorney, who was not in the office Friday to confirm if the family will pursue their own lawsuit.
A fellow Nez Perce Officer, Trevor Garrett, is going to trial in July for making false statements in the Flinn case.