Any time there is an officer-involved shooting, it’s the same old story:
“No, you can’t see video of the incident. At least, you can’t see it just yet. Prematurely releasing this information while an official investigation is under way would undermine the integrity of that inquiry. It might also taint the jury pool.”
Unless, of course, you can bully your way with the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office.
In this case, the bully’s name is Ammon Bundy of Emmett.
A man who has taken up arms against federal and state law enforcement — first in Bunkerville, Nev., in 2014 and then at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., in 2016 — is no one to be taken lightly.
Bundy has been on a bit of streak in Idaho this year. His open defiance of any effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic has escalated from an illegal Easter Sunday service to harassing a Meridian police officer at his home and finally forcing his way into the Southwest District Health Department offices in Caldwell.
For his next venue, Bundy was coming to the aid of his acolyte, Sean Anderson of Riggins. Anderson had come to Malheur to support Bundy.
Now Bundy was coming to tiny Nezperce in Anderson’s defense.
Not that Anderson cuts much of a sympathetic figure. He was on the losing end of a July 18 shoot-out with Lewis and Idaho county deputies as well as Nez Perce Tribal Police.
Recovering from his wounds, Anderson is still enough of a threat that Magistrate Judge Jeff P. Payne set bail at $1 million: There’s “a high likelihood he may not return on his own,” and “somebody could get seriously injured or killed in the process” of retrieving him.
So, as the Lewiston Tribune’s Justyna Tomtas reported, Idaho County Sheriff’s deputies tried to defuse the situation by offering to share their video with Bundy.
He declined, and proceeded to join his frequent sidekick, Diego Rodriguez, pastor of Boise Freedom Tabernacle Church, at Saturday’s anti-cop rally.
Next came the Real 3 Percenters of Idaho.
It brought in what it called an investigation team to review the video evidence. Before you get the idea this is a group of specialists in jurisprudence or forensics, consider who leads it: Eric Parker of Hailey, whose signature act was aiming an assault rifle from an overpass toward a Bureau of Land Management base camp below during the Bunkerville, Nev., standoff in 2014.
Being labeled an anti-government militia group by the Southern Poverty Law Center doesn’t hurt, either.
“Throughout this call, Mr. Anderson was, in our team’s opinion, agitated, aggressive and threatening,” the group said in a statement. “Although none of this should be construed as being a complete picture of the night in question, it does begin to paint a picture of Mr. Anderson’s demeanor and mindset during the incident.”
The 3 Percenters reiterated the probable cause statement’s assertion that Anderson discharged his shotgun and officers returned fire.
“The deputy’s body cam footage our team viewed begins as the peace officer exits his vehicle and begins firing 6-8 rounds at Mr. Anderson,” the statement continued. “As the officers approach the vehicle, the driver’s side door is seen in the open position and a pistol-grip shotgun is seen lying on the floor.”
Although Anderson’s wife, Sandy Anderson, with no small amount of righteous indignation, asked why a private group got access to inside information she has yet to see, the tactic got the desired result. Before he departed, Bundy kept his grievances to a generic, anti-government theme, never mentioning the cause that brought him to north central Idaho in the first place.
But at what cost?
Had the 3 Percenters team viewed the video on the internet instead of a private screening, would it have been any less persuaded of Anderson’s “aggressive and threatening” behavior?
If you’re concerned about compromising an ongoing investigation, why rely on the imprimatur of an anti-government group to filter its findings to the general public?
If the agitated group coming to Nezperce had been left-of-center — such as Black Lives Matter — would local law enforcement have been so accommodating?
The preferential treatment this group of bullies received from north central Idaho only emboldened them.
Any ideas what they’ll expect on a return visit? — M.T.