Idaho Falls: Police Murder Man in His Own Backyard after Mistaking Identity

By Serran Soledad

An Idaho Halls police officer shot and killed Joseph Johnson, a husband and father of four, in his own backyard early Monday morning after an officer mistook him for Tanner Shoesmith, 22, who fled from his car during a traffic stop nearby.

Joseph Johnson pictured with wife and children

After observing a vehicle with a broken taillight, a Bonneville County sheriff’s deputy initiated a traffic stop. Before the car came to a complete stop Shoesmith fled the vehicle, leaving the driver behind and headed towards a nearby residential neighborhood.

Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office along with the Idaho Falls Police Department (IFPD) began searching for Shoesmith, described as wearing a black shirt and khaki pants.

Residents were questioned by police officers. One resident reported the suspect running through their backyard with a gun. Police interviewed Johnson during the search.

Police entered Johnson’s residence weapons drawn, after hearing yelling coming from his backyard. Reports say Johnson, who was also wearing a black shirt, was holding a gun when police encountered him.

The police allege that he was told to drop his weapon, before being fatally shot by an IFPD officer. EMTs attempted to resuscitate him to no avail.

During the search, IFPD became aware of Shoesmith’s criminal record, with warrants out for his arrest stemming from charges of resisting arrest and felony battery on an officer.

Shoesmith’s record likely contributed to law enforcement’s wanton disregard for positively identifying the actual suspect before murdering Johnson.

Soon after the police killing, the suspect was found hiding in someone else’s backyard. The woman whose car he fled from cooperated with the police and shared his GPS location, which led to his arrest. Proof of the allegation that he was carrying a weapon has not been confirmed.

The officer who murdered Johnson has since been put on administrative leave, and an investigation into the incident has begun.