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Video: Body cam captures violent 'suicide by cop'

Body camera footage shows a tense confrontation between an Idaho officer and a knife-wielding suspect, which resulted in a fatal shooting

By Scott Maben
The Spokesman-Review

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Coeur d'Alene Police Officer Spencer Mortensen ordered Eric Byron Johnston eight times to drop two knives before fatally shooting him in a small apartment near downtown last summer, the officer's body camera recording shows.

Police released the video footage yesterday. The prosecuting attorney in neighboring Bonner County reviewed an Idaho State Police investigation into the Aug. 25, 2013, shooting and concluded that Johnston, a 35-year-old Dalton Gardens resident, appeared intent on "suicide by cop" and that no charges should be filed against Mortensen.

The officer's body camera footage shows a tense confrontation between the officer and Johnston, who had just fled a nearby car accident and was inside a friend's apartment. Mortensen entered the apartment looking for Johnston after learning Johnston was upset and had the knife. In fact, Johnston was holding two knives.

"Put the knife down, now," Mortensen said as he pointed his gun at the man. "Put it down. I'm serious. Put the knives down."

Mortensen then radioed for help: "I need you in this house right now."

Johnston, who was standing in the kitchen, began to walk slowly toward the officer, prompting Mortensen to warn, "I will shoot you."

Four more times Mortensen yelled for Johnston to put the knives down as the man continued to walk toward the officer. Then he fired five times from a few feet away, and Johnston crumpled to the floor.

Mortensen and other officers approached the apartment at 1422 E. Young Ave. shortly before 8 a.m. that Sunday looking for Johnston, who had driven his pickup truck into a utility pole, knocking it over, a half-hour earlier about a block away.

Johnston's friend, Wendy Woods, came out of the apartment as Mortensen approached and was standing just outside when the shooting occurred.

"I'm worried about him cutting himself," Woods told Mortensen before the shooting. Afterward, she became distraught, screaming at officers, and was placed in handcuffs and led away.

Copyright 2014 The Spokesman-Review

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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