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Prosecutor: 3 officers found innocent in officer-involved shooting

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - The investigation into an officer-involved shooting in Idaho Falls is over.

Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Paul G. Butikofer released his review of the Oct. 21, 2019 incident. He found IFPD officer Sgt. Jed Lewis, Courtney Sato, and Stetson Belnap were not criminally liable for the shooting death of Malachii Alexander Crane.

In the review, Butikofer says the officers responded to a call of a suicidal man. Police report they found Crane asleep in his car. They woke him up and tried to talk him out of the car. That's when officers say they noticed a weapon in his back waistband. Police spokesperson Jessica Clements says the crane refused to communicate with officers, exit the car, open the window at all. She goes on to tell us that officers were concerned Crane may have been drinking, and he turned the car on and tried to leave. Crane reportedly reached for the gun and swung it wide when officers broke the passenger side window.

The review goes on to say Officers fired 17 rounds in all, but it is difficult to discern if Crane ever fired his .40 caliber handgun. Investigators say they did find a single spent .40 caliber bullet in the car. They also believe a "non-penetrating grazing wound" to Cranes forehead was fired from close range.

Butikoffer writes, "This grazing wound was most likely fired by Crane himself. These facts support the conclusion that Crane most likely died as a result of gunshot wounds caused by law enforcement and not by a self-inflicted gunshot
wound."

Finally, the review says Officers started life-saving measures until EMS arrived, and took Crane to the hospital.

Butikofer determined the video evidence supports the conclusion that the officers did not fire their weapons until they saw, or heard that other officers saw, Crane raise his own firearm. He believes the officers did not know if Crane "intended to use the gun to self-harm or resist the officers attempts to take him in custody, or that he intended to harm law enforcement personnel."

IFPD also conducted its own internal investigation and came up with three suggestions.

Although Clements tells us there were four body cameras and four dash cameras recording during the incident, one suggestion is to equip officers with cameras and make sure that cameras are recording. Clements says one officer's camera was recharging at the time and another officer didn't start the camera until a few minutes into the incident.

A Second point is to standardize the number of bullets officers carry in their spare magazines so they can know how many rounds are used. Clements says no spare magazines were used in the shooting.
Third, the board suggest more scenario based training. Clements tells us the department already does that kind of training but would like to do more.

You can read the prosecutors’ entire declination letter below.

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