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Fourteen hours and 45 miles apart in rural Idaho, two stories began. But there is no justice yet for the family of Jeanetta Riley. Two fatal police shootings unfolded within 14 hours, both in lakeside towns in the same corner of north-west Idaho. The first victim was Jeanetta Riley, a troubled year-old pregnant woman, shot dead by police as she brandished a knife outside a hospital in the town of Sandpoint.
Her death barely ruffled the tight-knit rural community, which mostly backed the officers, who were cleared of wrongdoing before the case was closed. There were rallies, protests, sinister threats against the officer responsible, and a viral campaign that spread well beyond the town and drew an apology from the mayor.
The killing was ruled unjustified, and the police chief introduced new training for his officers. Both shootings occurred within a mile radius of remote woodlands and lakes not far from the Canadian border. Each raised complex but different questions over the decision by officers to use their weapons. The divergent reactions to the police killings of Riley, a mother of three, and Arfee, a Labrador-hound mix, speaks to a disturbing indifference to some human lives lost during encounters with police.
A dramatic spike in awareness of US police killings over the past year has put a spotlight on the use of lethal force by police and brought into sharp focus the actions of officers when confronting unarmed black men, such as Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City.
Yet each month there are dozens of police killings of disturbed individuals like Jeanetta Riley that barely register outside the local news. A recent US government study concluded there are close to 1, people killed by police on average each year. Another piece of research pdf estimated at least half of those shot and killed by police in the US have mental health problems. Animal rights activists say there is also an epidemic of needless police shootings of pet dogs: last year, according to figures compiled by campaigner Kristin Hoffman, dogs were shot by police across the US.
Jeanetta Riley was never going to be the kind of victim to elicit sympathy in a small, conservative town like Sandpoint. A Native American who was addicted to methamphetamine and alcohol, her life seemed in a downward spiral in the months leading up to her death on 8 July In town looking for a Sandpoint woman Riley was tiny — five feet tall and weighing less than lb — and while she could be a caring, considerate mother, she was also prone to snap, sometimes violently, when drunk.
Her family said her troubles began as a young girl. Ray Foster, her first husband and the father of her first child, said Jeanetta once told him that she was forced to drink alcohol from the age of five on a reservation in neighbouring Washington.
She had two more daughters, now aged eight and nine, with her second husband, Dana Maddox. InRiley was jailed for stabbing Maddox in the back. In the summer ofshe married Shane Riley, a year-old carpenter, and took his surname. Two years later the couple, who were injecting meth, gave up their newborn infant for adoption.
A few months later, the couple was homeless, living out of a Chevrolet parked beside a lake just south of Sandpoint. They were talking about divorce and quarrelling constantly. Jeanetta and Shane were snapping at each other on the day she died, and doing so in front of her year-old, Hannah, who had ed them camping for her vacation. The trio went fishing, panhandled beside a gas station and ate dinner at a shelter for the homeless. But by late afternoon, the arguments were intensifying and Jeanetta was talking about harming herself.
After drinking half the bottle, Shane said, Jeanetta threatened to kill herself. He said Jeanetta sounded delirious, ranting about stabbing people and killing herself. Shane parked the van on the road outside the emergency room. Jeanetta took a fillet knife with a three-and-a-half-inch blade from beneath the car seat. Shane ran inside, pleading for help. She has a knife and she wants to kill people. Brinkmeier asked a nurse to hit a panic button, putting the hospital in lockdown, and then dialled to pass the message onto Sandpoint police.
Jeanetta was dead within 15 seconds. Two body cameras and a third attached to a police dashboard leave no ambiguity over what happened when officers Michael Valenzuela, 27, and Garrett Johnson, 23, arrived in one car, and officer Skyler Ziegler, 29, in a second. It was 9. Jeanetta was in the van, holding the half-empty bottle of vodka and the knife, the passenger door open.
Shane was next to the vehicle, trying to calm his wife. When the police arrived, Shane crossed the road, gesturing over his shoulder to point to his wife. All three officers immediately took their weapons out and moved toward Jeanetta, who was 40ft away. She walked briskly toward them, the knife at her side. Johnson, who had taken out his Glock 22 pistol, was standing slightly to the side. Valenzuela had both hands clasping an AR semi-automatic rifle.
Repeatedly, Valenzuela and Ziegler shouted at Jeanetta to drop the knife. Jeanetta was stepping off the curb, into the road and toward the two officers, when it happened. Three hit Jeanetta in the torso; one penetrated her heart. He had just taken Arfee for his daily swim in the lake, and was headed for breakfast. Jones left his white Ford van in the parking lot, making sure to leave down the window enough to keep the two-year-old dog cool. It was 11am, 45 miles south of the Sandpoint hospital where Jeanetta had been killed the night. They shot your dog and they took him. It took Jones a few seconds to make sense of the scene.
Police had left a business card in his vehicle, with a telephone scribbled on the back. Jones was devastated. He had raised Arfee since the dog was a puppy. The Lab mix had accompanied him everywhere he went and slept beside him in bed. Dave Kelley, the officer who shot the dog, had been responding to reports of a suspicious white van following children in the area.
His partner, officer Jason Weidebush, saw no reason to draw his gun as the pair approached the van. Kelley did, creeping up on the van from behind to maintain the element of surprise on the occupant. There were calls for a boycott of the Java coffee shop and repeated demands for Kelley to be fired. There was a protest rally one day, and a vigil in a dog park the next. Three days after the shooting, the first video purporting to contain a In town looking for a Sandpoint woman from the hacking collective Anonymous appeared on YouTube.
You can expect us. The sentiment was echoed by mayor Steve Widmyer.
That, seemingly, was not enough. She was one of the roughly mentally unstable people shot dead by police each year; few ever remember the names of the victims. The US supreme court last week heard arguments in the case of Teresa Sheehan, a mentally ill year-old woman who was shot by San Francisco police in and survived. She, too, had threatened officers with a knife, but her attorneys contend police escalated an already volatile situation when they forced their way into her room with guns drawn.
But not everyone agreed. Peter Reedy, an FBI-trained hostage negotiator and former sergeant, argues officers were wrong to rush into a tense stand-off with their guns drawn and ended up aggravating a situation they should have diffused. A retired expert witness who lives in northern Idaho, Reedy has testified in dozens of cases.
Another critic of police was Dan Mimmack, a Sandpoint businessman who had never met Jeanetta but felt her death raised disturbing questions about the treatment of people with mental health issues. The Sandpoint police department provides officers with crisis intervention training CITwhich teaches police how to handle individuals with mental illness. Yet neither Valenzuela nor Ziegler had been on the course. Those demands went unheeded. He declined to speculate on the prospect of compensation, but insisted it was unfair to judge the officers with the benefit of hindsight.
Valenzuela and Ziegler made a split-second decision, confronted by a dangerous person, with limited information about why the hospital had been placed in lockdown. Campbell also disputed the characterisation of Jeanetta as mentally disturbed, saying there were no psychiatric reports to verify that. Shane Riley appeared to lend weight to that theory when he was interviewed later that night by detectives.
Three weeks ago, there was another woman wielding a fillet knife in a confrontation with police, in another lakeside town in northern Idaho.
Instead, they subdued her with a stun gun. This article is more than 6 years old. Photograph: Jed Conklin for the Guardian Jones. Paul Lewis in Sandpoint, Idaho. Fri 3 Apr The victim of the second shooting: a dog named Arfee. Reuse this content.In town looking for a Sandpoint woman
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