Was it a toy gun? Lewiston officer wasn’t sure when fugitive popped out of car trunk

A Lewiston police officer’s encounter Monday night with a 20-year-old fugitive hiding in the trunk of his mother’s car was captured on a police vehicle dashboard camera and went viral. Jess Harrell was holding a gun as he attempted to get out of the trunk, the video shows.

Lewiston police view the incident as a stark reminder of the dangers faced by law enforcement on a daily basis, officials said in a news release. Several officers have been injured or killed in ambush attacks around the country in recent weeks. On Nov. 11, Boise police officers Kevin Holtry and Chris Davis were shot and injured and a police dog, Jardo, was killed by fugitive Marco Romero as police searched yard to yard for Romero on Irving Street.

The incident in Lewiston happened just before 9 p.m. Monday.

Officer Thomas Woods stopped a vehicle that didn’t have license plates near a house that police say was frequented by Harrell, a man who was wanted on outstanding warrants, including for aggravated assault.

Harrell’s mother, 47-year-old Angelia Barnett-Harrell, was at the wheel of the vehicle, according to police. Woods heard a noise coming from the trunk and asked her whether it was her son in the trunk.

Police said her response was: “It’s a toy gun, don’t shoot him.”

Woods saw the trunk open and radioed for help. The officer struggled with Harrell — who was holding something in his right hand — both in the trunk and on the ground. Harrell tried to punch and spit on Woods after the officer gained control and waited for others to arrive, police said.

Harrell was booked into the Nez Perce County Jail on charges that included resisting and obstructing a police officer, battery on an officer and possession of a concealed weapon (he was found to have brass knuckles). Two officers suffered minor injuries during the arrest, police said.

Barnett-Harrell was charged with harboring a fugitive and possession of methamphetamine.

Police said the weapon that Harrell had was indeed a toy gun.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller