Judge says public records lawsuit against ISP can continue

February 27, 2019 GMT

SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho judge says a public records lawsuit against the State Police brought by a woman whose husband was killed in an officer-involved shooting can move forward in court.

The Bonner County Daily Bee reported Wednesday that 1st District Judge Steve Verby has denied a motion from the Idaho State Police to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the widow of Craig Johnson, who was shot to death outside his Coolin cabin in 2017. Robin Andrews is seeking documents related to the shooting and an alleged aggravated assault that police said her husband committed two days before his death.

According to court documents, Andrews asked law enforcement officers to make a welfare check on her husband at the cabin in September of 2017. When a Bonner County Sheriff’s deputy arrived at the residence, Johnson allegedly pointed a pistol at the deputy.

Two days later, sheriff’s deputies returned to the cabin, this time to serve an arrest warrant for aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. Half a dozen deputies approached the cabin in an armored assault vehicle, and Johnson exited the cabin from a back door. That’s when Johnson was fatally shot in the back by the sharpshooters, who were concealed in the trees behind the dwelling.

According to the court documents, Johnson was carrying a pistol at the time, though he was holding it by the barrel rather than the grip and the muzzle was pointed toward Johnson.

Andrews made a request under Idaho’s public records act for copies of reports and other documents related to the aggravated assault and the shooting, but the Idaho State Police denied the request because agency officials said the investigation was ongoing. Andrews’ lawsuit asks a judge to force the agency to turn over the records.

Attorneys for the ISP asked the judge to toss out the lawsuit, arguing that Andrews failed to set forth the correct facts in her lawsuit.

But the judge denied the request, saying there was a “perverse irony” to the Idaho State Police’s legal argument.

“The defense tries to get the widow Andrews’ case dismissed when she didn’t set forth what ISP considers to be the correct facts in her complaint. The reason she couldn’t allege those facts, however, is because she was precluded from obtaining them by defendant ISP’s denial of the records request,” Verby wrote in the ruling, saying such conduct “would not be viewed favorably.”


Information from: Bonner County (Idaho) Daily Bee, http://www.bonnercountydailybee.com