Officers cleared in one more shooting; investigations continue into two others

Photo courtesy of Times-News

Photo courtesy of Times-News

By Shelbie Harris,

A prosecutor on Tuesday cleared three Idaho State Police detectives of wrongdoing for using deadly force nearly a year ago when they shot a female passenger of a vehicle that had just struck an officer.

This is the oldest of four Southeast Idaho officer-involved shootings that have occurred during the last year. The officers who opened fire have now been cleared in two of those shootings while the two other incidents remain under investigation.

Shaylee Williamson, 21, of Pocatello, was accidentally struck by the state police detectives’ gunfire on March 27 of last year at the intersection of Golden Gate Street and Olympus Drive in Pocatello after the driver of the car she was in, Rocco Chacon, 25, of Pocatello, accelerated quickly while trying to elude police and struck one of the state police detectives with the vehicle, Idaho State Police said in a statement released Tuesday.

“Chacon … was wanted on two outstanding felony warrants,” the state police Tuesday press release said. “As detectives approached on foot, Chacon accelerated his car forward and struck one of the detectives. Fearing that Chacon had run over a detective as he drove forward, several detectives fired their weapons.”

Herzog told the Journal on Tuesday that the state police detectives discharged their weapons because the safety of one detective had been compromised and they were in fear for the safety of the themselves and other civilians. Williamson, sitting in the car’s passenger seat, was caught in the crossfire.

Chacon and Williamson were apprehended when their vehicle crashed on Pocatello Creek Road. Both were then transported via Pocatello Fire Department ambulances to Portneuf Medical Center. Chacon was medically cleared and then booked into Bannock County jail. Williamson spent several days at the hospital before being released.

Herzog said the investigation into the shooting took nearly a year because he had first asked the Twin Falls Prosecutor’s Office to handle the case but after four months Twin Falls prosecutors said they were too busy and asked for another agency to handle the case. So Herzog then gave the case to Stevenson to decide.

The other officer-involved shooting in which the officer who opened fired has been cleared of wrongdoing occurred this past December on Homer Drive in Pocatello.

Last month, Bingham County Prosecutor Cleve Colson announced no criminal charges would be filed against the officer who fatally shot Laurence McClellan, 62, of Pocatello, on Dec. 22 outside of McClellan’s home.

McClellan was fatally shot by a Bannock County sheriff’s deputy after he exited his residence and pointed a handgun at law enforcement officers during a standoff that began when officers tried to question him about some hit-and-run accidents in the area, Colson said in a written statement released last month.

The investigations into two other Southeast Idaho officer-involved shootings are ongoing and authorities have not released any new information in several weeks on either incident.

One of those shootings occurred on Nov. 30 when Pocatello police officers shot and wounded two suspects during a high-speed pursuit that began in Chubbuck and ended in Pocatello.

The wounded suspects — Terrence J. Griggs, 27, and Stacey L. Carter, 21, both of Pocatello — were arrested when the Nov. 30 chase ended. A Pocatello police vehicle nudged the car driven by Griggs, causing it to spin out and come to a halt, Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen told the Journal after the chase. Griggs and Carter, a passenger in the car, were treated at Portneuf Medical Center for minor gunshot wounds before being booked into the Bannock County jail.

The Pocatello Police Department has not said how many Pocatello police officers discharged their weapons during the chase, which began when Pocatello police detectives attempted to arrest Griggs on warrants outside of the Chubbuck McDonald’s restaurant. Carter was also wanted on warrants.

Pocatello police have not released any information explaining why the officers discharged their weapons.

Idaho State Police conducted the investigation into the shooting of Griggs and Carter and delivered a report on the incident to Herzog, who again recused himself and passed the case over to the Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office.

Herzog said on Tuesday that Bonneville County has concluded its investigation and the results will be publicly released in the next few weeks.

Bonneville County prosecutors on Tuesday did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the status of their investigation.

The other Southeast Idaho officer-involved shooting currently under investigation occurred in Idaho Falls in January. Idaho Falls police officer Earl Laughter III fatally shot Shane McVey, 54, of Iona, on Jan. 23. McVey was initially reported as a suspicious individual because he was in the parking lot of a convenience store using a torch to try to change a tire on a vehicle. McVey was brandishing a weapon when he was fatally shot but Idaho Falls police have not yet identified what the weapon was.

Idaho State Police also conducted the investigation into the shooting of McVey and delivered their report on the incident to the Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office. It’s unclear if Bonneville County prosecutors will decide whether Laughter III acted correctly or if they will send the case to a prosecutor in another county who will make that decision.

No further information will be released regarding the March 27, 2017, shooting involving Chacon and Williamson, state police said, adding that additional charges are pending against Chacon.

Chacon has already been charged with felony possession of methamphetamine, eluding, unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, battery with intent and grand theft for his alleged actions on March 27.

He is due back in court on March 22 for pre-trial motions hearing. If convicted of all the charges, Chacon faces up to 55 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

Williamson was not charged for what happened on March 27, but has since been arrested for alleged second offense possession of heroin and will be back in court on April 9.

Both Chacon and Griggs remain at Bannock County jail while Carter and Williamson have been released pending the adjudication of their cases.