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Friday, June 4, 2004


Private investigator finds missing bullet

New evidence in Algiers shooting discovered at scene

Express Staff Writer

The Magic Valley Critical Incident Task Force investigating the death of Ketchum resident Tom Algiers who was slain in a police standoff was tipped off last week to the existence at the crime scene of what authorities believe to be a 9 mm slug.

Idaho State Patrol Officer Cpl. Bob Bingham collects a bullet found at the scene of the May 16 shooting of Ketchum resident Tom Algiers. The bullet was to be delivered to investigators for The Magic Valley Critical Incident Task Force. Express photo by Matt Furber

A private investigator hired by Algiers’ family returned to the scene south of River Run Lodge over the Memorial Day weekend and found a bullet that may be the one police investigating the crime scene said they had been unable to previously locate. Authorities said Algiers, 45, was shot twice by police when he refused commands to drop a knife.

The bullet found Monday, May 31, could be a crucial piece of evidence in the shooting investigation, said Idaho State Patrol Officer Cpl. Bob Bingham. He was called in to collect the bullet at the scene on behalf of the task force.

Bingham interviewed the private investigator who found the bullet. Using a tape measure Bingham recorded its location at the scene and noted the angle at which the bullet was lodged in the ground.

During an autopsy, one bullet was found lodged in Algiers’ body. However, the second bullet that hit him in a hand was missing, Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling said.

Algiers was shot and killed by Blaine County Deputy Curtis Miller during the confrontation with police in the early morning hours of May 16, Femling said.

The sheriff said Miller was forced to shoot Algiers when he refused to heed orders by Miller and another deputy to drop a double-bladed knife. The fatal incident occurred in a densely wooded area on the banks of the Big Wood River, west of Ketchum.

The task force is looking into whether or not Miller’s use of deadly force was justified. The knife and all other evidence related to the shooting investigation are in the possession of the task force, Femling said.

"Our main function is to see if anything was criminally done," said Capt. Gerald Brant with the Jerome County Sheriff’s Office. "We have a person that was shot. Until we rule that it was justified, it is a criminal investigation."

Brant is the lead investigator in the Algiers case. The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office is the subject of the current investigation.

The task force was formed by Femling two years ago under an agreement made among sheriffs from Cache, Minidoka, 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 provide an unbiased investigation in the event of a critical incident like a police shooting, Brant said.

The task force responded to the scene of the Algiers shooting at about 3:30 a.m. May, 16, Femling said.

Protocol for the task force is outlined in an agreement signed by the counties and the state police, said Tim Graves, deputy prosecuting attorney for Blaine County. He said he did not believe the document had been reviewed by the county prosecutor’s office.

The response protocol for critical incidents, including police shootings, depends on who is available and nearby, Brant said.

In the Algiers investigation, at least two representatives of the task force have been present for each step in the investigation, Brant said.

Police said when Algiers was shot May 16 they were responding to a 911 call from Daniel Hunt, 44, who told police Algiers had attacked him.

Hunt was arrested by Ketchum police three days later, May 19, and has since been arraigned on a charge of aggravated battery in connection with an attack against Algiers.

Autopsy reports indicated Algiers was hit in the head 14 times with a machete more than an hour before he succumbed to gun shot wounds, said Blaine County Coroner Russ Mikel.

The Idaho Attorney General’s office is investigating the attack and a preliminary hearing for Hunt is scheduled for June 10.


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