Officers cleared in shooting of kidnapper James DiMaggio

jsowell@idahostatesman.comMay 7, 2014 

Two federal agents who shot and killed James DiMaggio last August in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness were justified in firing at the kidnapper, a Valley County investigation has concluded.

Valley County Prosecuting Attorney Jay Kiiha found the FBI hostage rescue team used reasonable force in shooting DiMaggio and rescuing 16-year-old hostage Hannah Anderson on August 10 near Morehead Lake east of Cascade.

At the same time, The U.S. Department of Justice concluded a federal criminal investigation was unwarranted, according to a press release issued Wednesday morning by the U.S. Attorney's office in Boise. The agency found no violations of federal civil rights statutes occurred in the shooting death of DiMaggio, according to the release.

DiMaggio fired two shots from a rifle as several agents closed in within 100 yards of the subject. Two agents who were within his firing line returned fire, striking DiMaggio multiple times in the head, chest and extremities.

The two officers were out in the open and didn't have any protection, Kiiha said.

"They weren't in a position where they could wait it out," he said.

A second team was also closing in on DiMaggio and those agents were able to protect themselves by staying behind rocks and other cover, he said.

Kiiha reviewed statements from the agents, a post-rescue interview of Anderson, an infrared video taken from a helicopter overhead and DiMaggio's autopsy report.

Following the autopsy last summer, Valley County Coroner Nathan Hess reported that DiMaggio had been struck six times.

DiMaggio kidnapped Anderson after killing members of her family in Boulevard, Calif., east of San Diego. Following a tip from Gem County residents Mark and Christa John and Mike and Mary Young, who spotted the pair while riding horses in the Frank Church wilderness, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies combed the wilderness looking for DiMaggio and Anderson.

Authorities flying over the wilderness in a plane spotted the pair at a campsite near Morehead Lake, about 40 miles east of Cascade.

Hostage rescue team agents were taken by helicopter and dropped within hiking distance of the campsite. They hiked to the campsite, tactically and began to close in through a wooded area to attempt to arrest the subject and rescue the hostage. The wooded area was steep, and the terrain was difficult to negotiate.

Meanwhile, the airplane remained above the campsite and officers relayed information on the activities of DiMaggio and Anderson to the hostage rescue team. Infrared video recorded the incident, including an overhead view of the action of the individuals involved and the heat from the shots that were fired. Agents moved in when it was reported that DiMaggio had separated from Anderson. The two agents fired after DiMaggio shot at them. A third agent found and safely removed the hostage.

Valley County and federal investigators found that the officers used reasonable force in handling the situation.

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