Idaho bail bondsmen’s arrest attempt leads to Sunnyslope shooting

The Sunnyslope Market was blocked off with police tape Friday afternoon.
The Sunnyslope Market was blocked off with police tape Friday afternoon.

The shooting victim, who reportedly pointed a handgun at the bondsmen, was flown by air ambulance to a Boise hospital, Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue said.

The Canyon Sheriff’s Office later reported that Marco A. Mejia, 26, of Caldwell, was shot in the head but that his wound is not considered life-threatening.

The woman the bondsmen were after — Chelsea M. Johnson, 25, of Caldwell — scuffled with them and fled briefly in a vehicle before getting into a minor crash, sheriff’s officials said. She was taken by ground ambulance to a Canyon County hospital, where she was checked out and then transferred to jail, Donahue said.

The bondsmen cooperated with investigators. Both reportedly fired their weapons once: One bullet struck Mejia and the other went into the ground.

It does not appear that Mejia fired his loaded handgun, which he retrieved from a vehicle and pointed at the bond agents, Donahue said.

The agents from Idaho Fugitive Recovery are apparently Idaho residents but from an area outside the Treasure Valley, the sheriff said, declining to be more specific.

The incident began about 2:30 p.m. when the recovery agents spotted Johnson, who has bench warrants for her arrest on Canyon County charges of drug possession and resisting officers. She was outside the Sunnyslope Market next to The Orchard House restaurant along Idaho 55, just north of Marsing in Canyon County’s wine region.

The altercation was quick; by shortly after 3 p.m. the air ambulance had taken the gunshot victim away and Canyon deputies had secured the scene.

Helena Nikolai Fujishin works at the market and witnessed the shooting.

“I saw the gun get pulled and ran to the back (of the store),” she said, noting that she took children with her to protect them. “As we were running, I saw the guy get shot.”

Fujishin declined to discuss the incident further.

Bounty hunters and guns

It is legal for bail bonds agents or bounty hunters to carry firearms in Idaho, Donahue said, but state lawmakers might be asked to change that during next winter’s legislative session.

Donahue said this is the first so-called deadly force incident involving bondsmen he has seen as sheriff, but in Idaho Falls last year, a bounty hunter from Boise shot and killed an Ada County fugitive, sparking criticism about the tactics and training of those who track down people who skip out on bond.

The Bonneville County prosecutor ruled that bounty hunter Christopher Schulthies was justified in fatally shooting Philip Clay, 58, in March 2015. But that county’s sheriff, Paul Wilde, said Schulthies’ lack of experience and training played a role in the outcome.

What’s next in the Sunnyslope case?

Investigators’ reports will go to the Canyon County Prosecutor’s Office, which will determine whether the recovery agents, yet to be named, or Mejia and Johnson will be charged in connection with the incident.

The Sheriff’s Office described Mejia as a convicted felon on parole, and parole conditions generally forbid possession of a gun. According to online court records, he was sentenced to two to four years in prison in 2013 on two felony drug charges. He also has a misdemeanor criminal record including resisting officers, theft and drug possession.

Court records show that two Canyon County bench warrants, each $10,000, were issued for Johnson after she failed to appear in court on a felony drug charge and misdemeanor charges of resisting officers and possessing drug paraphernalia.