Idaho Man Shot and Killed in His Backyard by Police in Case of Mistaken Identity

Idaho Man Shot and Killed in His Backyard by Police in Case of Mistaken Identity

An Idaho Falls man standing in his own backyard was shot and killed by the police on February 8 after being mistaken for a fleeing suspect. Police did not initially release the name of the victim, as his family requested privacy. 

He was later identified as Joe Johnson, a husband, and father of four who had moved into the neighborhood two years earlier. His wife has established a GoFundMe page to help the family pay expenses. 

Soon after the killing, the suspect was discovered hiding in a shed on a neighboring property. He was arrested and placed in the Bonneville County Jail. 

The Eastern Idaho Critical Incident Task Force is investigating the shooting. Idaho Falls Chief of Police Bryce Johnson – no relation to the victim – called the situation “incredibly tragic.”

A Traffic Stop Turns Deadly

After a Bonneville County sheriff’s deputy stopped Tanner J.M. Shoesmith, 22, in his vehicle for a broken taillight, Shoesmith jumped out the passenger side door and fled. Shoesmith had several warrants out for violent behavior. One of them was for felony battery on a police officer. Others were for resisting arrest and giving false information to law enforcement. He was believed to be armed and dangerous.

The deputy called for backup, and additional officers arrived. A manhunt was soon in full swing. The suspect was seen jumping over a fence, and the deputy lost sight of him. Officers were informed via radio of the general direction in which the suspect was heading. A resident on a nearby street notified police he had seen the suspect run through a yard and thought he was carrying a gun. 

Shoesmith had not been alone in his car. A woman was with him, and she assisted the police by showing them a message sent by Shoesmith that revealed his location by GPS. The location was in the vicinity of Johnson’s home. The police congregated there and drew their guns. 

Driver and Victim Wore Black Shirts

Shoesmith and Johnson were both wearing black shirts. A police officer, who has since been placed on administrative leave, saw Johnson in his backyard carrying a gun. He yelled at him to drop the weapon and then fired once. 

Johnson was killed instantly. Only when police went to see if they could save his life would they realize he was not their suspect. The police had spoken to Johnson just minutes earlier when they called and warned him the suspect was near his dwelling. 

Just 20 minutes elapsed from the traffic stop to Johnson’s killing.  

Idaho Police Killings

The death of Johnson was the first killing by Idaho police in 2021. However, since 2015, Idaho law enforcement personnel have killed 45 people. Mistaken identity police shootings are relatively rare, according to criminologists. 

That is little comfort to Johnson’s loved ones. He is now dead, killed in his own backyard over outstanding warrants that did not belong to him. 

Act Quickly to Protect Your Civil Rights

Police misconduct and excessive force claims must be made within legal time limits (statute of limitations). This is usually a very short period of time to make a claim.

It is also important to act quickly because as time passes, evidence can be tampered with or disappear, witnesses can forget the details of what they saw, officers have more time to cover their tracks. Your attorney's investigators need to act fast if you want to see any results at all. Filing a police misconduct claim is a race against the clock. You must act now – to make your best case.

Bad cops, police departments, and any institution that allows them to break the law must pay their debt to society.

Jail Death and Injury Law has the national structure and deep resources to get to the bottom of any police misconduct investigation. We have developed a unique process for maximizing claims and finding the culprits. 

To see if you have a case, call us 866.836.4684 or Connect Online. All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept confidential. There is never any charge for initial consultations. Cases are handled on a contingent fee basis


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