Mark Goforth was on a motorcycle ride up 8th Street Saturday morning when he ran into police blockades on the road. So he started hiking into Hulls Gulch instead.
The Boise man didn’t run into the reason for the police presence — a man who shot one family’s dog out on a trail, then fired at investigating officers.
But, heading up the Kestrel Trail, he ran into a group of people who told him of seeing the incident firsthand.
Even on a cool, cloudy day, the Foothills were packed with bikers, hikers and people out walking their dogs. So the first public signs that something was wrong came through Facebook and other social media, with trail users warning others of a suspicious man and, later, the shootings that shocked recreationists.
The name of the shooter, his motive and other details remained unconfirmed Saturday. But in confrontations before the two shootings, the man seemed “particularly upset” with dog owners out on the trails, Boise Police Chief Bill Bones said.
Officers were first called late that morning about the man threatening dogs and people in the area. After the man shot and killed the dog, police found him and he shot at the officers as well, Bones said. Those officers returned fire. Once the shooting stopped, officers found the man’s dead body.
On Facebook, some witnesses identified the suspect as a mountain biker, though police did not confirm that detail.
“Nothing like a (Saturday) morning trail run with my dog watching the sunrise and listening to the birds and water then having a mountain biker pull a gun on your dog and you,” wrote one woman in a group dedicated to local trail runners. She said she was on the Mountain Cove Trail in the Military Reserve area that links up to the Hulls Gulch trail system.
Not everyone in the group Goforth encountered knew each other, he said. Though he took and posted their photos, he didn’t get their names, and the Statesman could not independently verify their accounts Saturday.
Goforth said they told him they walked by the suspect, who at some point stated he was going to start shooting people and dogs. The group then sought cover, with one woman wading knee-deep into a creek, Goforth said.
The witnesses told Goforth they heard seven shots from the gunman, and dozens in return from police. The shooting involved Boise police officers and is being investigated by a task force led by the Meridian Police Department. Neither agency released details Saturday of how many officers fired their guns.
According to Goforth, the hiking group told him they had called 911 and were “petrified up in the hills” for about half an hour as they waited for police to respond. The group told Goforth that the suspect carried a backpack and looked like he had been in the wilderness for a few days. Police have not confirmed either of those claims.
After reaching a parking lot, the group, who Goforth said didn’t know one another, embraced in a group hug. In a post on Facebook, Goforth called that “a little bit of #BoiseStrong in the moment.”
“It touched me in a way that Boise or Idaho can touch you when it’s at its best,” he said. “It was a ‘pinch-me’ moment of gratefulness for those that didn’t get hurt.”
Goforth called the Hulls Gulch hiking area “a bit of a church” for him, and said he’ll have no reservations about returning after the shooting. He said he thinks other Boiseans won’t let it stand between them and the outdoors, either.
In fact, hikers, runners and mountain bikers buzzed around the Hulls Gulch area Saturday even as police worked to secure it. Goforth called the scene slightly bizarre and said some runners even seemed headed in the direction of the crime scene.
Around 11 a.m., the parking lot near the Gold Finch and Owl’s Roost trails was still full of recreationists and pets. That area is about 100 yards away from the Foothills Learning Center parking area, where police set up a blockade. Bones said the shooting took place about a mile up the Kestrel Trail.
Two runners told the Statesman they had been asked to leave the Lower Hulls Gulch trail, which begins in the same parking lot as the Kestrel Trail. One hiker said he had been exploring the area when several other trail users told him of an incident unfolding.
“Everybody on the trail was saying some guy went crazy and shot someone’s dog,” said the hiker, who asked to remain unidentified.
A group of three runners leaving the Red Cliffs Trail, which intersects with the Kestrel Trail, at around 11:20 a.m. said police told them little about the then-active situation as they were asked to leave.
Police also used Ada County’s emergency notification system to alert people through their phones of the situation.
Speaking at about 1 p.m., Bones emphasized that the situation was over and the trails are safe. But the area around the shooting may remain closed until at least Sunday morning to let investigators finish going through the complicated crime scene.
Bones said his thoughts went out to the family who lost the dog, and to all who were scared or unsettled by the situation.
“I know it’s been a scary morning for some of our citizens ... but I want to reassure everyone in Boise that things are safe,” he said.
Were you at Hulls Gulch?
The Statesman is looking for witnesses who encountered the man involved in Saturday’s shooting, or who saw or heard the shooting itself. What you saw may help Boiseans understand what occurred. Contact Nicole Blanchard at 208-377-6410 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.