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Friday ó May 21, 2004


Police shooting witness charged with battery

Victim had numerous machete wounds on head

Express Staff Writer

A Wyoming man earlier involved in an altercation with a Ketchum man killed Sunday morning in a police standoff has been charged with aggravated battery against the shooting victim.

Daniel Hunt, 44, formerly of Jackson, Wyo., was arraigned Thursday in 5th District Magistrate Court in Hailey.

Daniel Hunt

Hunt was arrested at 4:50 p.m. Wednesday by Ketchum City Police on the charge of aggravated battery, a felony, after having been free since Sunday. Hunt, who carries a Wyoming driverís license, had been living in a campsite near the Big Wood River for several weeks, said Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas.

Bail was set at $50,000, and Hunt is being held in Blaine County Jail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 26.

Details about the circumstances leading to the death Sunday of Tom Algiers, 46, became muddied Wednesday after Sheriff Walt Femling backed away from his previous assertion Monday that the sole witness in an earlier confrontation with Algiers had acted purely in self-defense.

Hunt had called Blaine County Dispatch at 1:57 a.m. Sunday morning stating that he had been attacked at his campsite near River Run by Algiers and that he had defended himself. He told police he had defended himself with a machete and that Algiers might be dead.

After police responded to Huntís call for help, Algiers was killed when Deputy Curtis Miller shot him twice in a confrontation at the campsite. Miller and fellow Deputy Dale Stocking both responded to the call, while Ketchum police "remained in the area as backup," said Ketchum Police Chief Cory Lyman.

Femling said his deputy was forced to shoot Algiers after he refused to heed police orders to drop a knife he was holding.

"The officers were backed into some deadfall," Femling said Monday. "It hit them in the back of the legs. They could not move any more."

Although Femling said Monday that he noticed three machete blows to Algiersí head as his body was being packaged for the morgue, there were actually 14 blows to the manís head, according to initial reports from the forensic pathologist at the Ada County Coronerís office in Boise.

Blaine County Coroner Russ Mikel said he is still waiting for the final reports from the forensic pathologist before he finishes his coronerís report in the case. However, he said, the machete wounds "could have been severe enough to have proven fatal."

Police initially accepted Huntís story, and by Sunday afternoon the crime scene had been abandoned and Hunt was free to leave.

However, Femling said Thursday that initial reports from the autopsy and photos he received told a different story, and he asked the Ketchum police to investigate Hunt as an assault suspect.

Algiersí family members and friends have questioned how Algiers could have threatened two armed officers considering the severity of the injuries he had sustained at least one hour before police shot him.

Because a Blaine County deputy shot Algiers while responding to a 911 call, Femling said Monday that he had turned over the investigation of the shooting to the Magic Valley Critical Incident Task Force. The task force is conducting an independent investigation into the circumstances of the shooting by a police officer.

"We just want to get to the truth," said Peter Algiers, a younger brother. "We want to get to what really happened and set the record straight. One thing we donít understand is why it took so long to remove his body."

Shot at 2:55 a.m. Sunday, Algiers was transported to the Wood River Chapel at 9:30 a.m.

The Blaine County Coronerís office has not ruled out the possibility of holding an inquest because the circumstances of Algiersí death are still unknown and suspicious, Mikel said.

"If this guy did make these machete wounds to his head, we want to see justice done," said Chuck Algiers, another brother. "Tom chose to live where he did. He was houseless, not homeless."

Greg Stahl contributed to this report.


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