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Prosecutor charges tribal officer with manslaughter

     Lewis County Prosecutor Zachary Pall charged a Nez Perce Tribal officer with voluntary manslaughter last week.

     Robert S. Wall, 31, was charged Feb. 21 with one count of Voluntary Manslaughter with a Deadly Weapon.

     The charge was based on an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Idaho State Police, according to a press release issued from the Lewis County Public Information Office.

     Wall is charged in the shooting death of Jeffery Flinn on Nov. 12, 2011.

     Flinn died following a 50-mile car chase that ended in gunfire on U.S. Highway 95 near Ferdinand.      

     Flinn, who had been arrested on drunken driving charges, had been released from jail earlier that day. He reportedly was involved in a one-vehicle crash on Waha Road near Lewiston. He reportedly stole a truck from another motorist who stopped to help. He then fled the scene. Witnesses claimed Flinn appeared intoxicated and suicidal at the Waha Road incident.

     A tribal officer reportedly located and attempted to stop Flinn on Webb Road, but he continued onto Highway 95 up the Winchester Grade.

     Spike strips were deployed by the Idaho State Police near Craigmont that flattened three tires on the stolen truck, but Flinn continued driving for about a mile and a half.

     He was shot at the conclusion of the chase and died at the scene, the FBI reported.

     The Tribe said it is both surprised and disappointed that Lewis County intends to prosecute Wall.

     Silas Whitman, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, noted that lengthy investigations by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to pursue charges.

     However, the current charge under state law differs from the legal requirements involved in civil rights violations considered but declined by the U.S. Attorney’s Office last spring.

     Whitman believes Flinn fired on officers with a loaded rifle prior to officers returning fire.

     “He was confronted with an armed suspect who, after a lengthy police pursuit, fired his weapon at the police,” Whitman said. “It is entirely reasonable that the officer would return fire when fired upon.”

     The Lewiston Tribune previously reported that Flinn had a rifle at the time of the shooting based on statements from the U.S. Attorney’s Office stating Flinn exited the vehicle and stood facing law enforcement officials with his hands in the air for three to five seconds before being killed.

     The complaint alleges Wall “unlawfully and in a sudden quarrel or heat of passion, but without malice aforethought and premeditation” killed Flinn by shooting him in the chest.

     Wall is the second of two officers charged in the incident. Tribal officer Trevor M. Garrett was charged in federal court with making false statements to FBI agents investigating Flinn’s death. He faces trial April 2 in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene.

     A conviction for Voluntary Manslaughter with a Deadly Weapon carries a maximum penalty of up to 30 years in the Idaho State Penitentiary and a fine of up to $20,000.

     Wall’s initial appearance in court will take place in Nezperce, but has not yet been scheduled.

     “Due to the pending criminal charges against Mr. Wall, the Office of the Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney will have no further comment,” stated the press release.

 

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