Sheriff: DiMaggio fired first in shootout

The man suspected of kidnap and murder had visited Idaho before the confrontation with FBI agents.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comAugust 13, 2013 

Burned Bodies Missing Children

Brett Anderson, wearing a shirt featuring a photo of his daughter, Hannah, speaks at a news conference Monday in San Diego. Anderson is flanked by FBI agent Rob Howe.

LENNY IGNELZI — The Associated Press

  • Pair took cat to Idaho wilderness

    Hannah Anderson has been reunited with her pet cat.

    The teenager brought her gray cat with her to the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, leaving from her Southern California home with James DiMaggio.

    When former Gem County Sheriff Mark John, who along with his wife, Christa, and ranchers Mike and Mary Young encountered Hannah and DiMaggio in the wilderness Wednesday, he thought it was strange to see a house cat in the rugged Idaho backwoods east of Cascade.

    DiMaggio was holding and petting the cat.

    “I asked him ‘What are you doing with a cat in here?’ Them cats are only good to chum a wolf in or to bring in a mountain lion or something,” John said. “He just kind of grinned and didn’t say much, had a little smirk on his face.”

    The cat’s presence could have made the feline — and possibly DiMaggio and Hannah — prey for any of a number of wild animals in Central Idaho.

    The cat, whose name wasn't immediately available Monday, was given back to Hannah following her rescue Saturday.

James DiMaggio fired one and possibly two rifle shots as FBI agents closed in on his campsite in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness before an FBI agent shot him dead Saturday evening, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said Monday.

Hannah Anderson, 16, was nearby when DiMaggio was shot, Gore said.

Gore also revealed that last week was not the first time DiMaggio had spent time in Idaho.

“He was familiar with the country in Idaho and had been there before,” Gore said at a news conference in Southern California.

He did not provide any details of DiMaggio’s earlier travels to the state. Idaho officials last week said they had no information on whether he had visited the state previously. There are no records of DiMaggio being arrested for any crimes or cited for traffic violations in Idaho, according to the state criminal repository.

DiMaggio is suspected of killing Hannah’s mother, Christina, and her 8-year-old brother, Ethan, at DiMaggio’s east San Diego County home. Their bodies were found Aug. 4.

Gore said that Hannah did not learn about their deaths until an FBI agent who interviewed her in Idaho after the shootout informed her.

The sheriff rebutted suggestions that Hannah had gone willingly with DiMaggio, an old family friend. He would not say, however, whether she had been mistreated or sexually assaulted, declining to offer any details about the time they spent together.

“I can’t make it any clearer: She was a victim in this case. She was not a willing participant,” Gore said.

Gore said Hannah is doing “as well as she can” considering the ordeal she’s gone through.

GRATEFUL FOR TIPS

Hannah’s father, Brett Anderson, thanked by name the four Sweet residents — Mike and Mary Young and Mark and Christa John — whose tip about seeing DiMaggio and Hannah near Morehead Lake led to the discovery of DiMaggio’s car at a trailhead on Friday. Their tip helped officers quickly find the pair the next day on the edge of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

“For without you, who knows how long this would have gone on,” Anderson, who wore a T-shirt with an image of his daughter, said at the San Diego news conference. “My family and I are eternally grateful.”

Gore called the information from the four horsemen the “key event” in the search.

Anderson called on the public to be more accepting of Amber Alerts, which helped bring attention to his missing daughter. The alerts helped the Johns and Youngs to realize after they returned from their wilderness trip that the man and teenage girl they’d seen in the wilderness were subjects of a manhunt.

“While some of you may find the Amber Alerts annoying, please pay attention. Keep your eyes open. Let’s bring those children home,” Brett Anderson said. “No one should have to go through this.”

REQUEST FOR PRIVACY

Anderson was reunited with his daughter Sunday in Boise. They arrived back in San Diego on Monday. Brett Anderson asked the public and media to respect his family’s desire for privacy.

“As for my daughter, the healing process will be slow,” he said. “She has been through a tremendous, horrific ordeal. I am very proud of her, and I love her very much.”

Details about the fatal shooting of DiMaggio remain scant. The FBI has refused to say how many times the agents fired at the campsite at Morehead Lake.

The FBI has not said how long it expects the investigation into the shooting to take.

It could be months before the results of that investigation are revealed. In the case of Ibragim Todashev, for example, who was shot to death May 27 during questioning by FBI agents in Florida, the FBI has not released details. The native Russian was being interrogated about his friendship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev of the Boston Marathon bombing. There were questions about whether he attacked an agent with a knife, was unarmed or held a metal pole. The agency has not provided any answers, and Florida officials have not investigated, deferring to the FBI.

A New York Times report in June found that from 1993 to early 2011, FBI agents fatally shot about 70 “subjects” and injured about 80 others. In every case, agents’ actions were found to be justified. Since 2011, an FBI spokesman told the newspaper, no agents have been found to have acted improperly during shootings.

The Times found that five agents out of 289 involved in shootings were disciplined for not following bureau policy. In all five cases, no one was struck by a shot. The typical punishment was placing a letter of censure in the agents’ personnel files.

Likewise, the agency has been silent on whether DiMaggio fired first or at all. Sheriff Gore’s account about DiMaggio shooting first with a rifle and firing at least once came from an FBI interview with Hannah, but wasn’t released by the agency.

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

PAIR TOOK CAT TO IDAHO WILDERNESS

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