Parents of a Montana man shot and killed by an Idaho State Police trooper are awaiting a federal judge’s decision on whether their lawsuit will go to trial.
According to the lawsuit, filed by Monte Mandarino and Laura Blankenship:
Alexander L. Mandarino, 26, of Kalispell, was driving home from a trip to Seattle on June 12, 2013. Late that morning, he pulled off Interstate 90 near Lookout Pass on the Idaho-Montana border to sleep.
Shoshone County Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Durflinger responded to a call from a passerby and stopped to check on the car. Durflinger learned that the license plates on the car, a 2008 orange Scion, did not match those assigned to the car.
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Durflinger awoke Mandarino, who was asleep in the passenger’s seat, and began questioning him about the license plates. State Police Trooper Todd McDevitt arrived on scene to help, and he also began questioning Mandarino.
For nearly 40 minutes, the officers questioned him. Several times they let Mandarino return to the car to retrieve items from the glove box, including the vehicle registration.
When asked if he possessed marijuana, Mandarino got into the passenger’s side of the car and retrieved a small pill bottle from the glove box. McDevitt and Durflinger stood next to him outside the car. ISP dash-cam video shows that Mandarino was still in the passenger’s seat when McDevitt saw a pistol in the glove box. He told Mandarino not to pick it up. McDevitt then leaned into the car and shot Mandarino.
The inside of the car and the pistol are not visible in the video.
Mandarino’s parents, who live in Whitefish, Mont., say their son was cooperative throughout the 40-minute encounter and deadly force was not necessary.
The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office turned over its report to Shoshone County Prosecuting Attorney Keisha Oxendine, who decided McDevitt’s use of deadly force was justified.
“Trooper McDevitt and Deputy Durflinger were presented with a viable threat of deadly force by Mandarino, through the presentation of a firearm by Mandarino and his refusal to release the firearm,” Oxendine said in an Oct. 22, 2013, news release.
Monte Mandarino, Alex’s father, told the Statesman that Oxendine has a conflict of interest, because she and Durflinger both work for Shoshone County.
“In this case, as well as in so many cases in our country, it is a huge conflict of interest that police are allowed to investigate themselves in situations like this,” he said via telephone on Wednesday. “I would really support federal investigations in every case of a police shooting or in every case that is even slightly questionable. I just think this is a huge gap in justice in our country.”
The lawsuit was filed in July 2014 against McDevitt, Durflinger and Shoshone County.
U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge denied a request by the State Police and Shoshone County to dismiss the case in August 2015. In February, the defendants asked Lodge to make a summary judgment, deciding the case without holding a trial. That request is still pending. Meanwhile, a trial date is set for Tuesday, Nov. 1, in Coeur d’Alene.