An afternoon of swimming at Macks Creek Park in Boise County ended with two people being handcuffed while officers, guns drawn, searched for a firearm they did not have.
Law enforcement recordings and Statesman interviews with those involved in the July 30 incident show how a Boise man’s empty threat grew into a report he menaced people with a gun, leading sheriff’s deputies to intervene.
The altercation began at around 7 p.m., when J. Paul Goll said a large dog attacked him at Macks Creek where he’d spent the afternoon with his girlfriend, Lisa Boggs. The dog charged at him and jumped on him, Goll said, but did not actually bite him.
Goll, who didn’t have cell service, said he went straight to the park host to call the sheriff and report a dog attack.
Upon returning to his campsite, he said, he was confronted by the dog’s owner. Boggs said Goll told the owner, “Get away from me, I have a weapons permit.”
Goll and Boggs, both of Boise, said they then quickly left the area in their convertible.
“We wanted to get out of there, we were frightened,” Boggs said.
The park host did talk to authorities — both a park ranger and county dispatchers. But they were led to believe Goll actually pointed a firearm at the dog’s owner. The park host told Boise County dispatchers that an intoxicated man with a gun “brandished a weapon” and drove away, and dispatchers passed similar information to Ada County deputies, according to recordings of their conversations.
Goll did not have a firearm in his possession.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates the park and hired the volunteer park host. The agency would not disclose the host’s name and the Statesman was unable to speak with her. But spokeswoman Gina Baltrusch said “a number of witnesses told the park host that Mr. Goll had stated that he had a gun in his car and verbally threatened to use it.”
The host and visitors became concerned when Goll was “rummaging through the trunk of his car,” Baltrusch said. The host reportedly asked Goll to stay at the campground until law enforcement arrived, but he left.
Goll and Boggs eventually spotted a park ranger on the side of Highway 21, Goll said, and stopped to talk to him about the dog attack.
The Ada County Sheriff’s Office verified that Goll did voluntarily pull over to the side of Highway 21, near the diversion dam. The ranger told Goll not to leave, saying Ada County deputies were on the way, according to Patrick Orr, spokesman for the Ada sheriff’s office.
The Boise County Sheriff’s Office and Boise Police also responded to the scene. When deputies arrived, Goll said, they pointed guns at him and asked him to get out of the car with his hands up, walk backwards, then get down on his knees. Deputies later gave the same order to Boggs.
“It was 95 degrees out that day,” Goll said about the order to kneel. “That road was hot.”
Authorities said they gave the order because deputies believed there had been an assault with a deadly weapon.
Orr said the deputies had their weapons displayed and in “the ready position” as they are trained to do during a felony traffic stop. Boise County Sheriff Jim Kaczmarek said his deputies were also following standard procedure based upon the information they had.
Boggs said the incident was embarrassing for her, as she was only wearing a bikini and a T-shirt with no pants.
“I knelt down on my knees and fell forward and it was just humiliating,” Boggs said. “All this traffic was backed up down that road.”
Orr said the couple were detained in handcuffs for 10 to 15 minutes. After questioning and a search of Goll’s vehicle, they were released. Footage from one deputy’s body camera shows both law enforcement and Goll apologizing for any misunderstanding.
Goll did not have a firearm in his vehicle, but fears what would have happened if he did have a legal weapon in his car.
“The problem is they were fed bad information,” Goll said. “And for us as citizens, I would have been arrested.”
Complicating efforts to confirm how that information spread is the fact that no full reports were filed on the traffic stop. The only documents available from the Ada County and Boise County sheriff’s offices were dispatch interactions and non-criminal incident reports. Boise police only filed a brief incident report about what happened on the highway because they weren’t the lead agency on the case. None of the reports outlined how Goll and Boggs were detained; only footage from a deputy’s body camera confirms the couple knelt and were handcuffed.
Kaczmarek said because there was no use of force and no arrest made, his agency only had a one-page report.
In body camera footage from the incident, one deputy is seen telling Goll that he had heard multiple stories about the interaction at Macks Creek.
That’s apparent in the dispatch recordings. Boise County authorities talked about looking for a man and a woman. In Ada County, dispatchers were told “two white males in a red sports car convertible pulled a gun on an individual.” In the recording, an deputy is heard telling the dispatchers that the suspect was “armed with a pistol.”
Goll said he is especially frustrated because there was never a report filed about the dog that attacked him at Macks Creek. He has not, however, pursued legal action.
He also believes Kaczmarek should investigate the incident because the park host told officers he had a gun when he did not. He believes the host deliberately lied to authorities because the host knew the dog owner.
“I thought they were on our side,” Boggs said about the deputies. “I was shocked at what had all happened.”
Besides being unable to speak with the park host, the Statesman was also unable to locate the dog owner.
Kaczmarek said at this point, he has no reason to believe the host deliberately lied. But he’ll investigate if Goll or the Corps has any evidence that the host intentionally filed a false police report.
The Corps said its host acted in good faith.
“Public safety is our top priority and when park guests inform us that they were threatened by someone claiming to have a firearm, then the appropriate response is to notify law enforcement so that issue can be resolved safely,” said Army Corps spokesman Joe Saxon in an email.