SPOKANE — Eight days after a 67-year-old partially blind woman in Spirit Lake died following a police shooting, law enforcement held a press conference Thursday night but declined to disclose any more information about what happened.
Spirit Lake City Hall was filled from wall-to-wall with media, residents and other North Idaho citizens seeking answers about S.A. Floyd’s death. Some offered support of law enforcement. Others were displeased.
The Spirit Lake Police Department said in a news release they responded to a mental health call on Nov. 1 near Fifth Avenue and Jefferson Street that escalated into a police shooting. The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the incident as part of the North Idaho Critical Incident Task Force, put out a statement that the woman was found dead in an apartment.
Floyd was partially blind and walked with a white cane, according to previous reporting from The Spokesman-Review. Her friend, Richard Smeltzer, said she was served a 30-day eviction notice from her senior living apartment at some point in the days before she died.
“She was distraught” about the eviction notice, Smeltzer said. “She didn’t know where she was going to go.”
The press conference was held to address misinformation online, reassure the public and explain the investigative process, according to Kootenai County Sheriff Robert Norris. But KCSO, Spirit Lake Police, Spirit Lake Mayor Jeremy Cowperthwaite and Kootenai County Prosecutor Stanley Mortensen all said they could not divulge further information on the shooting — such as why two Spirit Lake officers fired their guns, whether or not they shot Floyd or how she died.
A timeline from KCSO was handed out to media and residents at the conference, which stated that two officers arrived at a Spirit Lake senior living apartment complex at 6:27 p.m. Seven minutes later, “an officer-involved shooting occurred.”
At 6:47 p.m., a sheriff’s deputy arrived on scene. Three hours later, at 9:48 p.m., the timeline states, Floyd was found dead in her apartment. Norris clarified the initial call came from Floyd’s next-of-kin.
Janice John, who was Floyd’s neighbor, declined to speculate how she died or what happened that night. She wasn’t home at the time, but when she came home, she counted 12 bullet holes in her apartment.
One was in her refrigerator, she said. Three were in her front door.
“S.A was trying to find happiness,” John said. “This is just an investigation I’m not used to.”
Norris and Mortensen both described the process and protocol following a police shooting: the involved officers are placed on administrative leave, audio and video is reviewed, witnesses are interviewed, the investigating agency sends its findings to the prosecutor and the prosecutor can file or decline to file charges against the officers.
When asked why law enforcement held the news conference eight days after the incident, Norris said they were seeing misinformation on social media and “getting a lot of calls” that it was a sheriff’s office shooting and not a Spirit Lake Police shooting.
“There was some media outlets … Mostly television that put ‘officer involved shooting’ on their television news, and they put a Kootenai County Sheriff vehicle there, so we got a lot of calls,” Norris said. “That’s one of the reasons why that took a few days for that to occur. And some of the phone calls we were receiving was because of the misinformation.”
Norris would not clarify what parts of the information was true or false.
“We cannot release specific details about the incident,” he said.
Some people in the crowd were upset at the lack of information. One man raised his voice from the back of the room, saying, “You haven’t given any information.”
Another man raised his hand in the back and asked, “The purpose of this was… To release no facts?”
Again, they declined to release any details surrounding the incident while the investigation continues — which could take months, Norris said. Withholding details about the incident is protocol in Idaho, he told the public.
For comparison, Idaho State Police released information on a police shooting that took place in Lewiston on Nov. 2. The officer stopped a car for a traffic violation and the driver “discharged a firearm” at the officer, the release from ISP said. Other officers ended up firing their weapons. The driver, a 32-year-old man from Lewiston, was arrested and taken to the hospital.
Smeltzer, Floyd’s friend, said he was frustrated about the information KCSO gave Thursday night.
“Somebody screwed up here big time. I feel sorry for the officer … They could’ve saved a woman’s life,” he said. “Why would a blind woman do this?”
Chris Fourroux, who lives just north of Spirit Lake, said he is not surprised, but he is upset.
“I came here expecting that we would receive no facts,” he said. “I understand the reasons.”
Cowperthwaite said that while the citizens of Spirit Lake all want answers, “we need to be patient.”
He said he believes the officers involved in the shooting are OK, but he doesn’t want to speak for them.
“A lot of people were affected,” Cowperthwaite said. “Tragedy has no boundaries.”