“I guess I’m going to lose my gun again,” an Idaho officer said minutes after shooting and killing a knife-wielding man whose family called authorities for help because they said that he was going through a mental health crisis.
The shooting and comments were captured on police-worn cameras, and NBC News obtained the videos through a Lewiston Police Department public records request. The agency reviewed the fatal shooting of Michael Trappett, 48, at his parents’ home on Jan. 31 in Orofino, a town of about 3,100 people in northern Idaho.
Last month, Clearwater County Sheriff’s Cpl. Brittany Brokop’s actions were deemed justified by the Latah County District Attorney, and she has returned to regular patrol duties, Clearwater County Sheriff Chris Goetz said in a statement. She was placed on administrative leave in February.
Randall Carruth, a second deputy who shot Trappett, was also cleared by the prosecutor and returned to patrol duty.
Brokop also appears to have been cleared of wrongdoing in a shooting in 2020 while working for the same sheriff’s office, putting her in a rare class of law enforcement officers who shoot more than one times with their service weapons. The man who was shot in that case, Andrew Hull, 23, spoke to NBC News for the first time, saying “she pulled the trigger as fast as she could.”
“It went from 0 to 110 in a minute, and the next thing I knew I was shot,” he said, adding that the bullet hit his right thigh, narrowly missing his femoral artery.
“I was 3 inches from death,” said Hull, who was intoxicated at the time of the shooting.
Officials said Hull was combative and pulled a gun from a holster before the deputy fired.
Neither Brokop nor Clearwater County Sheriff Chris Goetz responded to requests for comment. The Idaho chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police also did not respond to a request for comment. The Idaho State Police, which investigated the Hull shooting, referred questions about the Hull shooting to the department’s public records unit. The agency has yet to provide any documents.
Court records from the criminal charges against Hull confirmed Brokop’s role in the shooting.
Authorities from the nearby Latah County District Attorney’s Office, which reviewed the fatal shooting in January, said Trappett posed a deadly threat when he came within 10 feet of Brokop and Carruth. Efforts to reach Carruth for comment were unsuccessful.
In a federal lawsuit filed last month, Trappett’s family accused the deputies of excessive force and other allegations.
“We believe Brittany Brokop should be held accountable for her actions,” Trappett’s brother Bill Trappett said. “She went too far.
The family also wants the sheriff’s office to strengthen its de-escalation policy, he said.
In an April statement, the sheriff called the family’s lawsuit notice “false” and said Trappett was trying to “attack” the officers when they fired. Goetz added that Michael Trappett has a “history of threatening and aggressive behavior” toward law enforcement, though it’s unclear which incidents Goetz is referring to.
Bill Trappett said he was only aware of one recent incident at a hospital when his brother was inebriated and yelled at staff at the facility that he had to wear a gown. In that case, officers tackled him and put him in a straitjacket, he said. But Michael Trappett was not arrested and his anger was directed at everyone, not just law enforcement, Bill Trappett said.
“Legal but awful”
It is not clear from the video whether Michael Trappett intended to attack the officer, said a use-of-force expert who was unaware of the matter but who reviewed the video for NBC News. Brokop seemed to approach Trappett too quickly, said Justin Nix, a criminology professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“It happens enough – officers rush and make poor tactical choices,” Nix said. “They have to fight their way out to protect themselves.”
He said he was not surprised the shooting was deemed justified because Trappett had a knife. He said many law enforcement people embrace a theory known as the 21ft rule: if someone has a knife and is within 21ft, they can attack faster than you can. draw your gun and shoot.
The theory is not supported by solid evidence, he said. “But if you buy into that logic, why is the officer pursuing so closely?”
About 30% of the approximately 1,000 fatal police shootings that occur each year in the United States involve people with knives and weapons that are not firearms, he said. Trappett’s death appears to belong to a class of “lawful but gruesome” shootings that departments should do more to prevent, he said.
“I would like to see more effort to train officers not to rush, to slow down,” he said.
Hull described himself as a recovering alcoholic who was going through a tough time when he went to a friend’s house for target shooting on March 25, 2020.
Hull got into a shouting match with a man in the way, he said. The man’s wife called 911, the sheriff’s office said in a statement, and when officers arrived they found Hull with what he described as a .45 handgun in a holster. thigh.
The statement says Hull “confronted” deputies, refused to follow instructions and removed his gun from the holster.
The deputies had a run-in with Hull, which led to Hull being shot, the sheriff’s office said.
Hull said he was intoxicated and “extremely loud”. He believed the officers were ordering him to drop his gun, so he pulled it out and threw it out of reach, he said.
“Next thing I know, they both rushed me,” he said.
Brokop pointed his gun at him, he said, and a second officer tried to shoot him with a stun gun. According to an arrest affidavit, Hull was wearing a ballistic vest and the stun gun had no effect.
According to the affidavit, a struggle ensued and Hull attempted to take Brokop’s gun. Hull said the officer fired three times before hitting him and tried to grab the gun so he wouldn’t be shot.
The affidavit says Hull attempted to take the deputy’s gun. He does not say how many times she fired.
Hull said it was unclear whether officers knew he had thrown away his gun, and the affidavit does not address the issue.
Hull was charged with aggravated assault on certain staff and with removing a firearm from a law enforcement officer, the document said. He served about a year in prison, he said.
Hull questioned Brokop’s actions the night he was shot, and he said he believed Trappett’s death was unnecessary. “There are ways to handle things, and this was not the way to handle things.”
A worried family calls for help
Bill Trappett, 52, said his brother suffered from bipolar disorder and drank heavily when he fell into a deep depression. In January, Michael Trappett – a certified nursing assistant who cared for his parents and loved animals – lost a beloved pet, a rescue bulldog who was hit by a car, his brother said.
On the night of the shooting, Michael Trappett was reeling from the loss and his mother, tired of her drinking, threw away her booze, Bill Trappett said. When he left their home with a knife, she dialed 911. According to the family’s lawsuit, Jackie Trappett called because she feared her son could be injured. Bill Trappett said his brother had attempted suicide several times in his life.
In the body camera video, the two deputies can be seen searching for Michael Trappett outside the family home. Her sister alerted the police to her mental illness in a phone call. The second deputy can be seen and heard telling a neighbor that “Michael Trappett’s cheese slipped off his biscuit. We want to make sure he’s not here terrorizing people.
Minutes later, Trappett appears outside his parents’ house and walks towards the police with one hand in his pocket. He stops a few meters from them.
“Show me your hands, Michael,” the officers shout.
Trappett pulls a knife from his pocket and the officers tell him to drop it. “Kill me,” he said, accompanied by a series of curses.
“We don’t want to shoot you, man,” Carruth replies. “Just talk to us. What’s going on?”
Trappett walks to the side of the house, and the officers follow. When he turns around and appears to start raising his right arm, knife in hand, the officers open fire. Trappet collapses. According to the family’s lawsuit, 15 shots were fired.
After noting that she would lose her weapon again, Carruth tells Brokop, “We had no choice.”
“No,” replies Brokop. “He left us no choice.
Trappett’s parents, who were at home when their son was shot, initially agreed with that assessment, although they questioned why he had been shot multiple times and why officers had not tried to find him. use a stun gun, said Bill Trappett.
In the months that followed, he added, they came to believe that the shooting “was clearly preventable. They had every option to defuse.”
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