Update: An unedited version of bodycam footage featuring the officer-involved shooting of Michael J. Trappett has been released.
Lewiston Tribune, Idaho
Jun. 2—On a darkened walkway outside an Orofino home, a police body camera shows a man approaching two Clearwater County deputies who had been seeking him on the night of Jan. 31.
“Hi, Michael,” said the first deputy, Cpl. Brittany Brokop.
“Show me your hands, Michael,” both Brokop and Deputy Randal Carruth called out repeatedly. The man, Michael J. Trappett, pulled his right hand out of his coat pocket and displayed a large kitchen knife. He moved aggressively toward the deputies, brandishing the knife and yelling expletives and accusations.
“Come and shoot me,” Trappett said.
“No, we don’t want to shoot you, man,” Carruth responded. “Just talk to us.”
The video shows Trappett turning and heading around the corner of the house, away from the deputies who called out after him to stop.
As Brokop followed Trappett, 48, around the side of the house, he suddenly turned back with his right arm raised, holding the knife in a stabbing posture. Trappett, about 10 feet away, made a jerking motion and took a couple of shuffling steps toward Brokop. Suddenly the night air was split with a volley of gunfire from both officers.
The video then shows Trappett lying dead on the ground, blood seeping from his upper body and head. Inside the house, his mother’s anguished cries could be heard.
The video, part of the evidence collected by the Lewiston Police Department, along with a written report by Lewiston Police Detective Brian Erickson, was recently obtained through a paid public records request by the Lewiston Tribune. It was recorded by Carruth’s body camera the night of Jan. 31 when the confrontation with Trappett happened and, along with Erickson’s report, is available on the Lewiston Tribune’s website today.
The incident began when Trappett’s mother called the sheriff’s office in the early morning hours of Jan. 31 to report that her son was intoxicated, becoming aggressive and had a large kitchen knife. The mother said that her son had left the residence and was somewhere outside.
When officers arrived on the scene, they initially failed to locate Trappett and started searching around the residence and a neighbor’s yard. When Brokop and Carruth returned to the parents’ home and were speaking to them outside the house, Trappett suddenly showed up.
Following the Lewiston Police investigation of the shooting, Latah County Prosecutor William W. Thompson reviewed the findings and concluded that the actions of the police were legally justifiable.
The Trappett family has disputed this and filed a tort claim in April against Clearwater County. The tort claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, has been referred to the county’s insurance carrier, Idaho Counties Risk Management Program. No further information on that claim was immediately available Wednesday.
Thompson wrote in his review that the use of deadly force “was the most viable option,” in the situation. Although one of the deputies was carrying a stun gun device, they judged it was unlikely to have been effective in that situation because Trappett was wearing heavy winter clothing, Thompson said.
Clearwater County Sheriff Chris Goetz said Wednesday that the “use of force policy” was followed by the deputies. Following the completion of the investigation and Thompson’s conclusions, Brokop and Carruth returned to active duty.
In his written report, Erickson said that shortly after the shooting, officers spoke with Trappett’s parents, Keith and Jackie Trappett, in their home to explain how the investigation would unfold.
During that conversation, Erickson said, Keith and Jackie Trappett both acknowledged repeatedly that the officers “had no choice. No choice whatsoever.”
“Jackie told me that Michael had raised the knife up at the deputy and was going to charge him before he was shot,” Erickson reported. “Jackie reiterated that she and Keith both witnessed the shooting, but Keith was standing in the doorway when it occurred.
“I asked Jackie to explain what happened with Michael inside the house. Jackie told us Michael had been ‘really drunk for about two weeks’ and he had started to get more aggressive and throwing things in his bedroom,” Erickson wrote.
“Jackie related Michael was throwing the bedding off his bed and yelling and swearing, which he very seldom ever did around them. Jackie said Michael was ‘really cussing everybody and the police.’ Jackie told us sometime around 0200 hrs. that morning, she had had enough of Michael’s behavior and decided she was going to give Michael two to five (2-5) minutes to calm down or she would call the police. Michael apparently responded to Jackie, ‘Yeah…well get the police, I’ve got my knife and I’ll just…dah dah dah.’ Jackie said she grabbed the phone to call the police and Michael was waving a knife around and stated, ‘When they get here I’ll meet ’em at the door.'”
After the shooting, Brokop and Carruth stood guard over the body, waiting for assistance from other officers. Brokop explained to Carruth how they would be investigated.
“We didn’t have a choice,” Carruth said on the video.
“No, he didn’t give us a choice,” Brokop answered. “I mean, not a good one.”
“No, not a good one at all,” Carruth said. “Sometimes there’s only bad and worse.”
Hedberg may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video, police report online
The body camera footage that shows officers shoot and kill Michael J. Trappett can be found with this story at lmtribune.com. WARNING: The video contains graphic content and language.
The written report from the Lewiston Police Department’s investigation into the incident can also be found with this story.
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