Deputy’s dash camera captures fatal crash near New Plymouth
Jackie Raymond called her father the morning of Oct. 18, 2011, to tell him she wanted to get some pumpkins from his garden to make pies.
She hung up expecting pumpkins, not that the call would be the last time she would talk to him.
Shortly after returning home that night from her daughter’s choir concert, Raymond was startled by a sharp knock on the door of her Nampa home. Two uniformed Idaho State Police officers asked her if she was Jackie Raymond and if her father was Barry Johnson. She said yes.
They told her Johnson had died about three hours earlier in a crash in front of his home on U.S. 30 near New Plymouth. They said a Payette County sheriff’s patrol car had crashed into Johnson’s car, killing him.
The news sparked a memory of an earlier, ominous conversation Raymond had with her father about that stretch of highway. “My dad was complaining that the cops were hauling a-- on that road, and he was tired of it,” she said.
Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Sloan was driving east in his patrol car at 115 mph while responding with lights and sirens to a 911 call from a child who said a stranger was in his house, according to State Police crash investigation reports. The speed limit was 55 mph on the two-lane rural highway.
Johnson’s 1983 Jeep was also eastbound, in front of Sloan, traveling about 24 mph. As Sloan tried to pass him, Johnson, who was on his way home after drinking at a local bar, began to turn left into his driveway. Sloan slammed on the brakes. His 2004 Ford Crown Victoria had slowed to 88 mph by the time it struck the driver’s side of the Jeep.
Raymond said her father was not drunk. Gem County Prosecuting Attorney Richard Linville agreed that Johnson was not to blame for the fatal crash — Sloan was. Linville charged Sloan with felony vehicular manslaughter.
Raymond thought she was on the way to getting answers, and justice.
Today, five years later, Raymond said she has no answers and no justice. She said she carries the added burden of what Linville called a bungled State Police investigation into the crash. She is fighting in court against the State Police, Payette County and Sloan.
MANSLAUGHTER CHARGE FILED, THEN DROPPED
Johnson, 65, owned Renegade Restoration, an automobile restoration business. He had moved to New Plymouth in 2003 to be closer to his daughter.
“We were very, very close. My dad was my world, and my dad did everything for me,” said Raymond, an only child.
Johnson was alone in his car, as was Sloan, who suffered arm and head injuries and was treated and released from the hospital that night.
A year after charging Sloan, less than two months before the trial, Linville dropped the vehicular manslaughter charge. He said conflicting crash-investigation reports and the untrustworthy conduct of the State Police trooper who led the investigation undermined his ability to prosecute the case.
Raymond said Linville told her he had no choice. “I was furious,” said Raymond, 46, who co-owns Mizz Pink Bail Bond’s, a bail bond and recovery business in Caldwell.
She sued in September 2013. In December 2014, the parties agreed to move the case from federal court to state court. Two months later, Raymond sued in Ada County, where the State Police is headquartered. In October 2015, an Ada County judge moved the case to Payette County, where the crash occurred. A trial is scheduled before Third District Judge Christopher Nye on July 24, 2017.
Raymond’s lawsuit alleges wrongful death and “tortious interference” by the State Police and Payette County. She contends the State Police’s manipulation of the investigation prevented a felony manslaughter case against the deputy from going to trial and made it harder to prove liability in a civil case.
I am going to fight every day until I get justice. I do not give up easily.
Jackie Raymond, daughter of the late Barry Johnson
At the heart of her case are three State Police crash investigators who say they refused to honor their bosses’ request to change the crash-investigation results to protect Sloan from possibly being deemed at fault. The investigators either took or threatened to take legal action against the State Police for retaliating against them.
All three claimed that after the Sloan case, they were retaliated against in myriad ways — reassignment from crash reconstruction to night and weekend patrol duty, rejected pay increases, denied promotions and poor evaluation.
Two of the investigators, Fred Rice and Brandon Eller, filed whistleblower lawsuits. The third, Quinn Carmack, filed a tort claim, a precursor required by state law before filing a lawsuit against a county or government agency, but never followed through with a lawsuit.
Rice’s case was dismissed. He no longer works for the State Police. The agency’s attorneys argued that he retired and was not fired as he alleged, that he did not receive disciplinary action, and that his superiors did not order him to do anything illegal. Fourth District Judge Cheri Copsey in October sided with the State Police, saying “the evidence presented establishes that there is no genuine issue of material fact.”
Eller’s case goes to trial Aug. 14, 2017 in 4th District Court in Boise.
All three investigators “were trying to get the truth out there,” Raymond said.
Eller and Carmack still work for the State Police.
WAS THERE A COVER-UP?
Linville, the county prosecutor, said State Police Trooper Justin Klitch botched the manslaughter case.
In a March 2013 letter to the State Police, Linville said he did not call Klitch as a witness at Sloan’s preliminary hearing because he had received “inconsistent versions” of the investigation’s crash reports and because “Klitch had exhibited an emotional involvement in the case that concerned me.”
Linville told the State Police he was surprised when the defense called Klitch as a witness and that Klitch “was less than accurate” while on the stand.
He asked that Klitch no longer patrol in Gem County so that Linville would “not be put in a position of having to rely on [Klitch] to testify in prosecution of criminal cases in this jurisdiction.”
The State Police responded with a letter that said in part: “It is unfortunate that you and Trooper Klitch failed to find common ground on this case, and it is the opinion of the Idaho State Police that Trooper Klitch conducted an unbiased investigation into this unfortunate crash, and looked at the case in its entirety prior to forming opinions.” The letter said Klitch had lost faith in Linville and had chosen not to routinely patrol in Gem County.
Klitch, 34, and Sloan, 36, both went to Fruitland High School. Raymond thinks they are more than colleagues.
“I think Klitch was covering up for his friend and trying to protect him, and ISP was trying to protect Klitch,” she said.
Klitch did not interview Sloan until more than a month after the crash, when a supervisor told him to.
Klitch was promoted to detective in June 2015 and now works in North Idaho. He did not respond to an email requesting comment.
“ISP still has pending litigation on this issue, and as such we are being advised not to speak in reference to this case,” State Police Lt. Col. Ked Wills told the Statesman. “[I]t has been my experience with ISP that as an agency we consistently hold our employees to very high standards and take appropriate action when employees don’t walk up to those standards.
“We are also constantly seeking out ways we can improve in order to meet the needs of those we serve. We try to do this because we can only be as successful in providing public safety as we have the public’s trust. We also have a long history of doing this simply because it is the right thing to do.”
In February, Judge Nye dismissed Sloan from the lawsuit because Raymond had not filed a $500 bond. Under Idaho law, whenever someone sues a law enforcement officer, a $500 bond or a bond waiver request must be filed, too. Raymond had filed a $500 bond in the federal case, but it did not apply to the state case. She later filed a bond waiver request, but that was filed too late.
Sloan resigned from the Payette County Sheriff’s Office four months after the crash. He no longer works in Idaho law enforcement. He did not respond to a Facebook message requesting comment.
Payette County’s attorney, Michael Kane, on Friday asked the court to dismiss two of the three counts against Payette County.“While it is apparent that [Raymond] feels that Payette County should have done more to assure a conviction, her displeasure does not transmute into a valid tort,” he wrote. A tort is a wrong for which a court can hold someone liable in a civil case.
WAS ALCOHOL A FACTOR?
One issue with the crash reports is whether Johnson was intoxicated. Witnesses who were with him before the crash said he had one or two drinks at a local bar before heading home, but he was not impaired.
Less than six hours after the crash, Klitch issued a press release that said “alcohol is believed to be a factor in this crash.”
The next morning, Raymond went to the coroner’s office to get her father’s things. Payette County Coroner Keith Schuller told her that Johnson’s blood-alcohol content was 0.127 percent. The legal limit for driving is 0.08 percent.
Raymond told the coroner there was no way his BAC was that high: “My dad was a moderate drinker. One or two drinks. He did not drink and drive.”
The coroner told her there was not enough blood left in her father’s body for a standard blood test, so he tested blood he collected from the body bag. That is “a grossly inaccurate method,” said Raymond’s attorney, Nathan Olsen of Idaho Falls.
Raymond later learned Schuller was able to perform additional tests using blood from Johnson’s eye and femoral artery. Those BAC results were 0.053 and 0.08. But by then, Schuller’s initial result of a 0.127 had been released.
“This completely unreliable BAC was immediately and improperly passed on to the investigators as conclusive ... with the improper intent of creating a false and biased narrative that Mr. Johnson was ‘highly intoxicated,’ ” Olsen wrote to Payette County’s attorney.
Her father’s insurance company, based on the early report of intoxication, paid Sloan $25,000 for his injuries, according to Raymond.
“[My dad’s] name has been tarnished since Day One,” she said.
Because of the widely varying BAC levels and the inability to conduct a field sobriety test, Carmack, the State Police investigator who filed a tort claim but did not sue, did not list alcohol as a “causational factor” in the crash. Carmack’s initial report said the crash was caused by Sloan traveling at 115 mph while making an unsafe pass.
At his bosses’ request, Carmack removed references to unsafe driving by Sloan. He wrote that Sloan was driving at 115 mph with his emergency lights and siren on, and that while trying to pass Johnson’s vehicle, Johnson turned left. He said Johnson had a femoral artery blood alcohol level of 0.08.
Johnson did not pull over to let the patrol car pass. It is unclear whether he signaled to turn left: Sloan’s dashboard camera does not show that, and his vehicle was too damaged to determine whether his left turn blinker was operable.
When Linville, the prosecutor, asked for the crash investigation report, Rice, the now-retired investigator whose whistleblower lawsuit was dismissed, gave him both versions. State Police leaders learned this during Sloan’s preliminary hearing. They told Rice that Linville should not have received both. Rice said he had an obligation to present them.
Shortly after her father’s death, Raymond put custom decals on the back window of her white Dodge Charger depicting two cartoon characters of a boy urinating on the words “Ex-Deputy Scott Sloan for killing my dad” and “Payette County Sheriff.” Along with “R.I.P. Barry Johnson 10/18/2011.”
Raymond added a third decal this year. This one depicts a boy urinating on the letters “ISP” — Idaho State Police.
“Everyone honks and gives me high-fives,” she said.
She thought the decals might irk law enforcement officers. Recently, she said, she had an encounter with a Nampa officer.
“I was speeding. An officer pulled me over,” Raymond said. “He told me that he wanted to give his condolences about my dad. He said, ‘Because of you, I train my officers so that nobody has to die.’”
“I shook his hand and told him thank you,” Raymond said. She got a warning from the officer not to speed. Raymond wishes she had asked the officer his name.
Raymond teared up as she described the encounter. She said that if law enforcement agencies learn from this crash and improve their training or change their policies, both officers’ and citizens’ lives could be saved.
Her case is scheduled for trial in nine months in Payette County. As State Police and Payette County attorneys work to get it dismissed, Raymond is not backing down.
“My dad is not here to tell his side, so I need to protect his name. … I want everyone to hear my story.”