‘They shot to kill’: Bantu group wants answers in Boise police shooting. Details are scarce

·6 min read

A week after gunfire erupted in a typically quiet Boise neighborhood, details remain scant about what led police to shoot a Black man after they say dispatch received a report that he abducted an area teenager — including how the child might have known the suspect.

As of Friday evening, the man wounded in the June 27 shooting was in critical but stable condition while recovering at an area hospital following surgery earlier in the week, according to a spokesperson for the Boise Police Department. The department has declined to name the man — he has not been arrested or charged with a crime — or comment on whether the child knew him. Local activists, meanwhile, have taken to social media to demand answers about why police shot him in the first place.

Boise police have stayed tight-lipped while the Ada County Critical Incident Task Force conducts its review of the use-of-force incident, which marked the department’s first officer-involved shooting of the year, BPD spokesperson Haley Williams confirmed. The Garden City Police Department is leading that investigation.

“We want to be as open and transparent to the public as we possibly can on these types of things,” Williams said. “We do understand people are looking for these details and want to know this information, and also have to balance that with the needs of outside agencies in their investigation, in order to maintain the integrity of that investigation.”

Video footage from the officers’ body-worn cameras is part of that review. On Friday, BPD named the three members of the force involved in the shooting as Officers Steve Martinez, Aaron Hartje and Jeffrey Ridgeway, and each has been placed on paid administrative leave, per standard department protocols.

Martinez, an 18-year member of law enforcement, is the only one of the three who has played a role in at least one prior officer-involved shooting, Williams said. Martinez fired his weapon in the August 2020 death of a 58-year-old Kuna man from multiple gunshot wounds at an RV campground in Meridian when the suspect barricaded himself in his trailer and began firing at neighbors early in the morning, police said.

Williams would not say how many times the three Boise police officers fired at the man last Sunday, and did not provide information by deadline about each officer’s prior disciplinary record or any previous paid or unpaid time off from the department.

What is known about the June 27 incident is Boise police issued a series of tweets that evening seeking the whereabouts of a man identified then as Mohamud Hassan Mkoma, believing that a 14-year-old boy with him might be at risk. The department said in a subsequent press release that a suspect allegedly entered a home near the intersection of State Street and North North Street and left with the teen. The boy was thought to be in “immediate danger,” police said.

“As officers were investigating it, there was information that caused them grave concern. We were preparing to release an Amber Alert,” Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee said during a news conference last Sunday, not long after the shooting.

However, before that alert went out — at around 6:25 p.m. — officers spotted the man’s vehicle, which police have yet to publicly identify. When they tried to stop him, he fled, police said. Officers pursuing the vehicle spotted a Black child matching the boy’s description, according to Lee, and what they thought was a weapon being brandished inside the vehicle.

Activists want answers from BPD

A group calling itself Justice for Mohamud posted to social media that the incident is the latest in a growing list of high-profile examples where law enforcement inappropriately applied what could be deadly force against a person of color in America. Since the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man killed at the hands of white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Memorial Day 2020, police departments across the country have been under heightened scrutiny, with the Black Lives Matter movement leading nationwide protests over police behavior and killings.

On Thursday, the Justice for Mohamud group posted on Facebook and Instagram that Mkoma, who they say is from Africa and does not speak English, is a cherished member of Boise’s Bantu community who was struggling through a mental health crisis when he took the boy, said to be his son. Not long after, police officers shot Mkoma four times at close range, the group claimed, and now he is fighting for his life at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.

BPD has been meeting with the suspect’s family and other community members about the shooting incident, and exceptions have been made to allow family to visit him at the hospital, Williams said. Meanwhile, the activist group said due to the lack of information, it held a protest at the Boise hospital the day after the shooting, and a Saint Al’s hospital spokesperson confirmed a number of people gathered outside of the Curtis Road location on Monday.

“They shot to kill,” the group’s social media post reads. “The police are not judge, jury and executioner. Mohamud has a right to a fair trial and humane treatment.”

Messages sent by the Idaho Statesman to the social media pages of the Justice for Mohamud group seeking an interview received no response.

Mark Snider, the Saint Al’s hospital spokesperson, said he could neither confirm nor deny whether Mkoma was a patient, citing an internal policy that any person in police custody is automatically designated a “no information” patient. Saint Al’s is the only Level II trauma center for adults in the Treasure Valley.

To date, police will not say whether a weapon was found in the man’s vehicle, what they believed that weapon was last Sunday or whether the man they shot tried to use it at any point during the incident, including against them. But after employing a chase maneuver to spin out the suspect’s vehicle near the corner of 36th Street and Eyrie Way, just north of Quail Hollow Golf Course, officers engaged the man and fired their weapons.

“The officers exited the vehicles, confronted and challenged the individual. Events transpired that compelled the officers to use force,” Lee said during the Sunday news conference. “They immediately made sure that the juvenile was safe, and then transitioned over to lifesaving measures and rendered lifesaving aid to the individual.”

No timetable exists for the task force to complete its investigation of the incident, said Garden City Lt. Cory Stambaugh, who was previously a member of the Boise police force. “There’s not a general checklist. It’s no different than any other investigation, and just depends on what we come up with,” he said in an interview.

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