Ketchum man slain by deputy
Sheriff says officer forced to fire
when victim refused to drop knife
By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer
Tom Algiers, a 25-year Ketchum resident,
was shot and killed by a Blaine County deputy officer during a confrontation
with police early Sunday morning.
Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling said
one of his deputies was forced to shoot Algiers, 45, when he refused to heed
police orders to drop a knife. The fatal incident occurred in a densely wooded
area just south of the River Run Lodge parking lot.
At a Monday morning briefing, Femling
outlined to the media the events that occurred at the campsite near the east
bank of the Big Wood River:
The sheriff said the deputy who shot
Algiers was forced to use deadly force to stop Algiers. He said Algiers was
carrying a knife with a blade open on each end, but that he did not know the
type or the size of the knife since it is now in possession of a special task
force investigating the shooting.
At about 2 a.m. Sunday, May 16, police
received a 911 call from a male caller who "said he needed an ambulance and the
cops at the River Run Lodge," according to the Blaine County Dispatch blotter.
The caller was Daniel Hunt, 44.
The dispatch record states, "his friend
(Algiers) beat him up and now he thinks the friend is dead."
Femling said two deputies responded to
River Run. When police met Hunt he was barefoot and wearing only shorts. The
officers followed Hunt to his campsite by the river, where he said Algiers
allegedly attacked him.
"It’s like a jungle. My officers had a
difficult time finding their way back," Femling said. "(The deputies)
accompanied Hunt to the camp ... while at the camp they were helping him get
clothes and were there for a while to make sure he was safe."
Hunt told Femling that Algiers had pulled
him out of his tent and he fought back with a machete.
"Algiers jumped on him and started choking
him," Femling said. "He was absolutely taken out of his sleeping bag ... the
machete was in his tent ..."
This campsite in the woods near the Big
Wood River, south of the River Run Lodge parking lot, is where Daniel Hunt
told police he was camping before he was allegedly attacked by Tom Algiers, who
was shot by police Sunday.Express
photo by Matt Furber
Femling said evidence at the scene and
Hunt’s near naked condition convinced him Hunt’s story was true. The sheriff
previously told media representatives that he believes Hunt acted in
self-defense when he struck Algiers with the machete.
While helping Hunt, Femling said the
deputies heard branches snapping and went into the woods to investigate.
The deputies found Algiers covered in
blood, crouching behind a tree. They said he stood up with a knife in his hand.
The deputies ordered Algiers to drop the knife and told him they were there to
"He continued to advance towards them,"
Femling said. "The officers were backed into some deadfall. It hit them in the
back of the legs. They could not move any more. One of the deputies fired two
rounds. Algiers was fatally wounded."
Femling said the deputies were armed with
9 mm handguns and that Algiers was shot twice by one officer, once in the in the
chest and once in the hand.
Blaine County Coroner Russ Mikel confirmed
that an autopsy performed by a pathologist in the Ada County Coroner’s Office in
Boise shows that a gunshot wound killed Algiers.
"Algiers suffered additional injuries from
lacerations," Mikel said. "I was told it was from a machete."
Mikel said Tuesday that he was still
waiting for more information from the Ada County Coroner’s Office and that his
medical investigation into Algier’s death is ongoing.
"I saw three head injuries (on Algiers),"
Hunt was taken to St. Luke’s Wood River
Medical Clinic, but he was not treated for any injuries.
Femling said about an hour passed between
the time of the first 911 call and the shooting.
Femling said he would not release the
names of the deputies involved in the shooting until mental health specialists
have debriefed them.
"This was a very traumatic experience for
people involved," he said. "I’ve got to see their condition."
The Magic Valley Critical Incident Task
Force, a collection of investigators assembled from eight county sheriff’s
offices and the Idaho State Police, are looking into the shooting. The task
force responded to the scene at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday.
The task force was formed by Femling two
years ago under an agreement made between sheriffs from Cache, Minadoka, Twin
Falls, Jerome, Gooding, Lincoln, Camas and Blaine counties and the state police.
The group was formed to pool crime investigators in an effort to form fair
investigations into police shootings, said Capt. Gerald Brant of the Jerome
County Sheriff’s office. Brant is the lead investigator in the Algiers case.
The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office is the
subject of the current investigation, Brant said.
Any results of the investigation will be
made public through Femling’s office, he said.
"Our main function to see if anything was
criminally done," he said. "We have a person that was shot. Until we rule that
it was justified, it is a criminal investigation"
Femling said his office would not
investigate the two deputies.
"I do not investigate my own officers," he
said. "We step aside and (the task force) look(s) at the evidence that led to
Brant said five teams were doing
interviews into the events surrounding the shooting and that the investigators
planned to meet today to consolidate information.
Femling said he planned to attend the
meeting and that the task force may do a re-enactment of the shooting at the
scene May 24.
"The scene would be secured again," he
said. "(The task force) want(s) to redo it in the light ... they want my two
officers to be there."
Femling did not know whether or not Hunt
would be involved in the re-enactment, but that if they want him he was
confident that he could be found.
Femling said Hunt does not have an address
or a phone number and that his driver’s license was issued in Jackson, Wyo., in
Hunt has not been charged with any crime,
but he and other campers were told May 7 to pack up their belongings and leave
the private property where they were camped.
"Hunt came back," Femling said. "He snuck
back in there and re-established camp ... it is difficult to find where his next
camp is going to be ... he has been interviewed a few times ... statements have
been taken … hopefully he’ll stay around."