Police Chief Bill Bones tries to help Boise heal after tragic violence
The emotional calluses of a 25-year career in law enforcement appeared to have been ripped away when Boise Police Chief Bill Bones stepped in front of the cameras at City Hall West on July 1.
The towering, soft-spoken chief choked back tears as he described the horror of the night before — an "evil" attack that left the largest number of victims in an incident in department history.
Nine people were stabbed, including six children, who were at or near a 3-year-old's birthday party at the Wylie Street Station Apartments just off State Street. All of the victims were members of refugee families from Syria, Iraq and Ethiopia.
"Obviously, I have cried during this event," Bones said a couple of days later in an interview at his office. "Thankfully, I was alone yesterday when I found out that we had lost our little girl — because she really is, in a part, she is a daughter of the entire community. She's a part of who we are."
Ruya Kadir, the birthday girl, died Monday at a Salt Lake City hospital. The girl's mother, Bifituu Kadir, a refugee from Ethiopia, has said she wants prosecutors to seek the death penalty against her daughter's alleged killer. The man charged with murder in Ruya's death and aggravated battery of eight others is Timmy Earl Kinner Jr., a 30-year-old homeless felon with a criminal history in other states.
The heinous crime drew international media attention — and on July 1, the 50-year-old police chief became the face of a shocked and grieving city.
"It took away a sense of security for so many," Bones said. "It tore away a part of the innocence of the citizens of Boise. You can't have an event like this and not have every single person feel that little bit of fear."
But Bones is heartened by how his department managed the chaotic crime scene; the tenderness the officers showed the victims and families in the hospital; and the way the community has come together to support a refugee community that is reeling from violence they thought they left behind when they came to the United States.
"This could happen anywhere in the world — where is the kind of city with the kind of people that you want behind you if it were to happen? That's Boise. That's why I live here. That's why I raised my daughter here," Bones said.
The leaders of the Boise Police Union and Fraternal Order of Police-Treasure Valley Lodge 11 provided a joint statement Friday about the incident, expressing pride in the professional way that responding officers worked with dispatchers, paramedics, firefighters, hospital staff and citizens to save lives in a "high risk, high stress and highly emotional" situation.
"As one might imagine, this complicated situation was made more difficult due to the language barrier between first responders and the refugees who required lifesaving measures," wrote FOP President Joe Andreoli and Boise Police Union President Cory Stambaugh. "That gap was bridged by the help of other refugees, and specifically refugee children who helped to translate the foreign languages to help officers and paramedics provide the best lifesaving care possible. "
Pierce Murphy, ombudsman for the city of Boise for 14 years before leaving for Seattle in 2013, said Sunday's press conference with Bones was heartbreaking to watch.
"One can imagine what it would be like for paramedics, firefighters and others to see the horrific injuries of these victims — these small young children," Murphy said in a phone interview from Seattle. "It may be more than a human being is meant to bear."
Bones said the department has done a critical incident stress debriefing at which officers, paramedics, firefighters, dispatchers and others talk about what happened. A psychologist is available to those who want to talk privately.
"I have a department of people that got into this job, into this career, because they're here to take care of others, to help others. We try hard to get them to take care of themselves," he said. "None of us do the best job at that."
In the days since the stabbing, Boise Fire Captain Dennis Doan has said publicly that he would like to see post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, be considered a work-related injury for first responders.
"I think Chief Doan's thought is very good about the PTSD," said former Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney, who believes the culture needs to change to recognize that mental health is as important as physical health. "We still have a militaristic culture — you kind of suck it up and get the job done."
Raney said that in 2012, he required all sheriff's employees to go see a certified counselor covered through the department's Employee Assistance Plan — not because they all needed it, but because he wanted to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help. He said a few then recognized that they could benefit from additional sessions with a counselor.
Bones said he lives fairly close to the Wylie Street apartments, so he was able to get to the stabbing scene in about 15 minutes.
The department's night shift was brought on early, and off-duty officers, detectives and crime scene specialists were called to work the scene. Bones estimates that 75 to 85 BPD employees were there that night and into the next morning.
"It was an all-hands-on-deck. We were really calling in every available resource before the night was over to help us," he said. The department has 400 employees: 300 sworn officers and 100 civilian employees, those being victim-witness coordinators, crime lab technicians and crime scene specialists, among other things.
Boise police officers who were first on scene grabbed trauma kits — these contain tourniquets, emergency trauma dressings, gauze, etc. — out of their vehicles so they could immediately begin aiding the victims. Quarterly and ongoing trainings helped them to respond without hesitation at the incident, Bones said.
"Seconds count, not just minutes, in a situation like this," he said.
Police union officials said Boise officers receive some of the best training that is offered to law enforcement. If not for that training, and the well-prepared paramedics, "we fear the community may be grieving more loss than we are already dealing with," Andreoli and Stambaugh said.
Other local law enforcement agencies, including the Ada County Sheriff's Office, Garden City Police and Idaho State Police, stepped up to support Boise police by helping to secure the perimeter, handling traffic control and responding to other calls around the city. The FBI also offered assistance, and Bones said the agency will be part of the effort to try to understand what led up to the stabbing attack.
The preliminary investigation by police found that Kinner was staying as a guest at an apartment at Wylie Street but was asked to leave due to his behavior; they believe he returned to get revenge.
"This is the event you hope never happens in your community but you train as though it is going to happen," Bones said. "All of the local agencies and most departments across the country do the same thing. We have to be prepared for an incident like this. Talking to the officers later that morning as things calmed down, and talking to the officers that responded, I heard multiple comments on how well everything had flowed. It really was a matter of they have trained it, they've practiced it in their mind what their response would be, and when something like this happens, they just really roll into A, B, C, I'm going to do this."
Bones was selected to take over for retiring Police Chief Mike Masterson about 3.5 years ago, after a nationwide search that drew more than 100 applicants. The department has provided focused outreach to the refugee community for a decade or longer, Murphy said.
"You have to just give the entire department huge credit for what they've done ... to support and help refugees to integrate in the community, to navigate a different legal system and really go beyond policing or law enforcing to the real community-based policing that we all wished happened everywhere," Murphy said.
On Tuesday, Bones recalled getting to know one local refugee family over a Thanksgiving meal. He hopes more Boiseans will get involved with helping neighbors working hard to start a new lives.
"You have a moment to create good out of horror, to move forward from the past, and to be an example to the rest of the country in how we treat every single member of our community," Bones said. "Take advantage of that moment. Take the initiative to become involved, to step forward, to be a voice for the innocent among us, to be a voice for those that don't always have a voice, for the most vulnerable populations that exist — and if you're somewhere else and you happen to be tuning into Boise to look at this, be a voice in your own community."
Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413