Boise Police Officer Matt Jacobs faced an anguishing decision the night of May 31 should he fire at a possibly suicidal man who held a gun on a fellow officer who had no cover? Or should he continue to tell that man to drop his weapon?
Jacobs picked the first option, which followed the Boise police use-of-deadly force policy and was done purely in defense of the other officers life, Community Ombudsman Pierce Murphy concluded Tuesday.
Murphys investigation of the shooting of Troy Epperley resulted in the same conclusion Bannock County Prosecutor Mark Hiedeman reached in August, that Jacobs was justified in shooting Epperley in what turned out to be a suicide-by-cop scenario.
Murphy released his report Tuesday, offering more details on what happened that night, including that Epperley gave Ada County 911 dispatchers the address across the street from where he actually was.
That meant that Jacobs and the officer who arrived with him had their backs to an armed Epperley. Thats how the other officer whose name has not been released ended up with no cover, according to Murphys report.
The report says Epperley told a family member (identified by Hiedeman as Epperleys estranged wife) to send medics to his house. When asked why, Epperley texted her the message suicide by cop.
Police were called to the 6100 block of North Sparkford Way near Eagle Road and Chinden Blvd. just after 10:20 p.m. on May 31. His wife said Epperley had been drinking, was suicidal and had access to guns, according to police.
Epperley called 911, telling dispatchers of a hostage situation at the address across the street from where he really was. Epperley told dispatchers he was holding himself hostage.
When Jacobs and the other officer arrived, they walked behind Epperleys pickup for cover and concealment while they waited for other police to arrive. When they noticed the house behind them had a yard light on, they were concerned the light made them easier to see. The officer rang the doorbell to ask the resident to turn the light off, while Jacobs stood by the truck.
Instead of the light going off, the garage door opened and Epperley walked out with a pistol in his right hand. Jacobs moved behind the pickup truck, but the other officer could only back into the yard.
The officers told Epperley repeatedly to drop his gun, but said Epperley raised his arms instead, holding the gun but not pointing at them. Both said Epperley then said something like shoot me or kill me and moved in their direction, Murphys report said.
Thats when Jacobs pulled the trigger on his rifle. That round did not fire, so Jacobs ejected the round, chambered another and fired a second time. Epperley was hit and dropped to the ground.
Officers called for paramedics and began first aid. Epperley was pronounced dead at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center that night.
Murphy said Tuesday it is unclear why Epperley gave the wrong address. But it did play a major part in the outcome, he said.
In a blink of an eye, (the officers) focus went from trying to safely help someone who might be suicidal to thinking that one or both of them was about to be shot, Murphy said.
He said neither officer fired immediately, but repeatedly ordered Epperley to drop the gun.
It was reasonable for (Jacobs) to believe that (the other officer) was in immediate danger of death or serious bodily harm, Murphy said.
Murphy said neither Jacobs nor the other officer turned on their portable tape recorders until after the shooting. but that did not violate policy because they did not know they were about to confront Epperley. The officers turned the recorders on as soon as possible and taped their conversation with Epperley as they administered first aid. These recordings captured statements made by (Epperley) that made it clear he wanted officers to shoot him, Murphy said.
Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson will discuss Murphys findings at a news conference Wednesday.
Masterson has referred to Epperleys case as an example of an increasingly difficult problem Boise police face, dealing with mental health calls and reports of people, often armed, contemplating suicide.
Patrick Orr: 377-6219, Twitter: @IDS_Orr