Ramon Milanez died in a stunning barrage of police gunfire in the driveway of a Kuna home one year ago today — and now much more information about that fatal confrontation is available in public records, including video.
For example, records show that officers fired more than 70 rounds at Milanez, and the coroner found 11 gunshot wounds on his body.
Tensions were heightened because SWAT members believed Milanez had guns and hand grenades, and they knew he was an associate of a fugitive who shot two Boise Police officers a couple of months earlier, the 573-page Critical Incident Task Force report by Idaho State Police shows.
The information about the grenades came from a confidential informant who previously saw them, the report said. This was the first time that Ada Metro Swat had encountered a subject who might be armed with grenades, according to Ada County Sheriff’s spokesman Patrick Orr.
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The concern about grenades impacted everything during the hunt for Milanez — even after he was dead. His body was removed from the bullet-riddled car hours later with robotic equipment operated by the Boise Police Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.
The family who lived in the house where the shooting occurred has moved out, and neighbors who stayed are also trying to move on.
“I deleted all the photos off my phone and Facebook. I just don’t care to recall it,” said Sharla Sheets, who lives next door to where Milanez was hiding in a garage for hours. Two of her neighbors who were recording the standoff aired the shooting on Facebook Live — that video was used by state police investigators because SWAT members don’t wear body cameras.
“We are still testing and researching the type of cameras that would work best in tactical situations,” Orr said.
Officers fired at least 76 times
Dressed for combat and using armored vehicles, Ada Metro SWAT with help from Boise’s Special Operations Unit did a yard-to-yard search in the Chapparosa neighborhood for Milanez in the early morning hours of Jan. 24, 2017.
Milanez was suspected of firing on an Ada County Sheriff’s deputy while fleeing a traffic stop just before 4 a.m. He abandoned the car, and police quickly set up a perimeter. Hours later, they evacuated a man and two children from a house where they believed Milanez was hiding.
Rather than surrender when cornered in a garage on East Black Hawk Court, the 32-year-old made a last-ditch attempt to escape.
Eight officers from the two local SWAT teams fired an estimated 76 times at Milanez as he backed out of the garage, Orr said. The coroner’s report showed that he tested positive for THC (marijuana), methamphetamine and amphetamine.
After they finished firing on Milanez, SWAT threw “flashbangs,” also known as sound bombs, on and into the car to try to determine if he was still a threat, videos captured by neighbors show.
Some of the officers involved in the shooting — and witnesses watching from houses nearby — thought Milanez was firing as he backed out of the garage, according to the task force’s report.
Milanez was unarmed at the time he was shot.
An officer in charge of a robot that sent into the house said it appeared Milanez was holding a gun. Two guns were found near a backpack that Milanez dropped or ditched while on the run. The backpack had an emblem of a grenade on it.
Threats to blow up police station?
Some of the SWAT officers told ISP investigators that they recalled a safety bulletin from a few weeks earlier about threats from of one of Romero’s associates, possibly Milanez, to use explosives to retaliate against police officers for killing Romero.
In November 2016, Romero shot two people in a Meridian apartment before he got in a gun battle with police in Boise, wounding two officers and a police dog before he was killed. Boise Police Corporal Kevin Holtry was paralyzed and lost a leg, and Corporal Chris Davis was treated for a leg wound. The police dog Jardo died less than a week after the shooting.
With that incident still fresh in their minds, SWAT officers worried that Milanez might ambush them as they were searching yards — firing at them from a hidden position or lobbing grenades. One of the officers, who had been in law enforcement for 26 years, told ISP investigators that he could not think of a situation where he was more scared.
SWAT members decided they could not let Milanez get away from the house, especially if he was armed with grenades.
“If a person is armed with a bomb, they are a bomb” is the training they have received, the task force’s report said.
“You can’t let a bomb go mobile,” one officer said. He believed they had a duty to keep the subject contained, the report noted.
The SWAT officers tried to stay in or near the armored vehicles for protection, though some wondered if they would withstand a grenade blast.
Orr, the sheriff’s office spokesman, said the SWAT team does training on how to deal with explosive devices, but no one can remember the threat of grenades in a standoff situation like with Milanez.
Drug dealer’s life was getting very complicated
Milanez, who lived in Nampa, was a fugitive on Jan. 24 last year — even before he was suspected of fleeing a traffic stop and firing on a sheriff’s deputy.
He was wanted on three warrants out of Canyon County: possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon.
He was also having trouble with his drug bosses in the Mexican drug cartel, according to confidential informants interviewed for the task force’s report.
Milanez owed a lot of money, and he was worried about being killed. He had the grenades to protect himself, an informant told police.
A person who was close to Milanez told police that he was afraid to go to prison because he was wanted by members of the Severely Violent Criminal Prison gang. She said he was jumped by members of that gang in December 2016.
That person also noted that Milanez had the backing of the cartel, which repeatedly bailed him out of jail.
Milanez had many convictions in Ada County dating back to 1999, including resisting and obstructing officers, carrying a concealed weapon, malicious injury to property, burglary theft and false personation.
In 2005, he was sentenced to one to five years in prison for burglary, but the sentence was suspended and he was released on probation. He spent time in jail but not a day in prison.
Traffic stop, shooting at an officer
In the early morning hours of Jan. 24, before Milanez was pulled over, he was at a Kuna drug house that was expected to receive 10 pounds of methamphetamine from Tijuana, Mexico, according to the task force’s report.
Milanez was driving a black BMW; it was a car that he did not own. The registration on the car was expired, and that was the probable cause for the traffic stop by an Ada County Sheriff’s deputy.
The car stopped. The deputy got out of his vehicle but decided not approach the vehicle until he had backup. The BMW sped off.
A couple minutes into the pursuit, the deputy reports to dispatch: “Shots fired towards me. I’m pulling off. Advising shots fired from the vehicle. I’m pulling off,” his body camera video shows. The deputy was not hit by any bullets.
Among the items that investigators found in the BMW after it was abandoned by Milanez: a black book ledger, a black plastic cup with scale, plastic baggies, and live and spent rounds.
Milanez’s iPad was among other items that he dropped as he fled on foot through the neighborhood. His iPhone was also recovered — police had “pinged” that to help find him, though they also received help from confidential informants and followed his tracks in the fresh snow.
Fourth District Magistrate Judge Kevin Swain granted a search warrant so authorities could inspect the content of the devices. But an agent in the FBI office told ISP that they would not be able to access them due to Apple encryption that cannot be broken with the technology currently available.
Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs, who reviewed the task force’s report, found the officers involved in Milanez shooting were justified in using lethal force.
All the officers “had legitimate fears for their safety, the safety of their fellow officer, and the safety of the general public because of Milanez’s actions,” Loebs said.
Milanez not alone in the car?
Investigators believed there was a woman in the BMW with Milanez when he fired on the deputy, and she was able to escape the scene.
Police caught up with Stephanie Marie Prieto, 35, at a Meridian gas station, and officials said she would likely be charged with resisting and obstructing.
But she was not charged because prosecutors did not feel they had evidence to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, a spokesman for the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office said Wednesday.
A few weeks after the Jan. 24 incident, Prieto was arrested on drug charges after a traffic stop in Eagle. She was charged with felony possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver.
Prieto was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison, but that was suspended. She was placed on probation and sent to jail for 60 days, with credit for time served.