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Wednesday, May 19, 2004


Ketchum man slain by deputy

Sheriff says officer forced to fire when victim refused to drop knife

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.

Tom Algiers

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 help him.

"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)," Femling said.

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 the shooting."

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 2002.

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."


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