An Idaho cop who shot and killed a suspected drunk driver won’t be charged with a crime despite video evidence that contradicts police’s narrative of events.
Boise police said they shot 50-year-old Noel Rodriguez because he had tried to stab them with a screwdriver before trying to run them over with his pickup truck.
But the body cam footage they released shows Boise police officer Rob Rainford shooting at Rodriguez as he revs his engine after being boxed-in by two cop cars, ramming both cars in an attempt to escape.
Twin Falls County Prosecuting Attorney stated the following in a press release Friday in justifying the shooting:
“The facts in this case reveal that Mr. Rodriguez, through his unlawful acts, made himself a clear and immediate danger to law enforcement officers who were engaged in the lawful performance of their duties, and a serious potential danger to the public at large. Officer Rainford’s actions, therefore, were justified and not illegal.”
The incident took place on June 14 after police received a call from a citizen about a driver who was drunk and delusional claiming Drug Enforcement Administration agents and street gang members were after him.
The driver turned out to be Rodriguez, who police say was armed with a screwdriver and wrench. They say he tried to stab a cop with the screwdriver before fleeing, nearly hitting another cop with his truck.
Police say that is on the video that was not released.
The video that was released last week shows Rodriguez posed no immediate threat to officers who had managed to box him in when he pulled over for the second time, before punching the accelerator again, revving his engine and spinning the wheels to his truck in an apparent effort to flee police again.
Rodriguez goes nowhere fast as officers move towards him from the rear of his truck.
It’s only a matter of seconds before Rainford, accompanied by several other cops approaching the rear of the truck, fires several bullets, at least one of them striking Rodriguez in the chest, executing him on the spot.
As Rodriguez’ lifeless body lie still in the front seat, one cop breaks the passenger-side window in order to open the door. Another cop drags Rodriguez’s lifeless body to the ground twisting his hands behind his back, presumably to handcuff him, but the video fades to black.
The first few seconds of the video, which only includes footage from after Rodriguez fled the first time, shows several Idaho cops approaching Rodriguez’s truck from behind with their guns drawn.
Smoke fills the air from Rodriguez’s truck tires spinning, although the truck is stymied and only presses against the patrol cruiser police had managed to park in front of him, creating a barricade which effectively boxes him in so tightly he cannot flee.
Police never attempt to reach through the window to remove Rodriguez’s keys from the ignition.
It was comply or die.
But video footage shows Rodriguez attempting to drive forward in order to escape the barricade while several police walk up from the rear of his truck, instead of heading for cover from any danger.
Rainford is seen standing slightly behind Rodriguez when he shoots him through the driver-side window, along with another cop who is also shooting Rodriguez through the driver side window.
The shooting marks the first time for Boise police that an officer-involved shooting was captured on body camera, although Boise Deputy Chief Eugene Smith claims entire footage from the incident hasn’t been released due privacy concerns.
“The purpose of going through the cameras is for the police department to be as transparent to the community or to the city as possible,” said Smith. “So by having cameras we are convinced that incidents like this demonstrate we can be transparent, but can we be transparent and still protect individuals who involved that deserve privacy and respect.”
Smith also stood by Rainford’s decision to use deadly force instead of grabbing Rodriguez’s keys from the ignition or moving away from Rodriguez’s truck.
Despite damming video footage, several Boise news media outlets reported the police’s version of what happened as their news coverage, likely fearful of losing access for future stories involving the local police department.
Rodriguez, who suffered from mental health issues as well as drug and alcohol addiction, had served nearly three decades in prison for beating a woman to death in 1987.