The Thursday night shooting of Bradley Wilson, 30 of Pocatello, by a Bannock County Sheriff's deputy as Wilson held a hostage at gunpoint outside of the Chubbuck Petco came down to a split-second decision, according to Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Neilsen.
“One of my officers made that shot,” Neilsen said during a press conference Friday afternoon. “He felt he had a clean shot and he made that shot. It was done in a split second.”
It was reported at the scene Thursday night that one fatal shot was fired and it hit Wilson in the neck ending an episode that began about 8 p.m.
Wilson had taken an 18-year-old male high school student hostage after walking into Petco with a handgun.
According to Chubbuck Police Chief Randy Severe, Wilson had abandoned the damaged car he was driving earlier in the evening — during a series of chases with police — behind the Pine Ridge Apartments and had entered the store looking for alternate transportation. Severe said Wilson pointed his gun at the high school student who was a customer and said, “You're going with me.”
Wilson led the hostage out of Petco and was immediately surrounded by police officers from four departments.
“He put his gun to his head and to the hostage's head,” Severe said about Wilson's confrontation with officers.
After weighing the situation and making a quick decision, a Bannock County deputy shot Wilson. Severe said officers had already established a safety perimeter in the Petco plaza.
The hostage was taken to the Pocatello Police Department where he was debriefed and examined for possible injuries.
“He was very genuinely terrified,” Severe said about the hostage.
A chronology of Thursday's events involving Wilson was shared at the press conference attended by Severe, Sheriff Neilsen, Deputy Pocatello Police Chief Maj. Jim Peterson and Bannock County prosecutor Steve Herzog.
Chief Severe provided most of the details.
Pocatello police dispatch had received a call earlier in the evening from Wilson's mother saying she was concerned about the safety of her son, according to Severe. With the cooperation of Wilson's cellphone service provider, the Pocatello police were able to determine he was located at the Jackson's convenience store at 1107 S. Fifth Avenue.
A patrol unit went to Jackson's about 8 p.m. and discovered Wilson was a passenger in a dark-colored sedan driven by another adult male. As officers approached the car, the driver jumped out and went into the convenience store. Wilson brandished a firearm, slid over to the driver's seat and drove off at a high rate of speed down S. Fifth.
Severe said officers initially gave chase, but broke it off for safety reasons.
However, a short while later Pocatello police tried to pull the vehicle over and another high-speed chase began that took Wilson and patrol units northbound on Yellowstone Avenue headed toward Chubbuck. The suspect vehicle turned left off Yellowstone and proceeded westbound on Chubbuck Road. Severe said hot pursuit was cancelled again for public safety reasons.
Alerted to the suspect vehicle's description, an Idaho State Police sergeant spotted the car on Highway 30 near the Simplot Don Plant and observed the vehicle leave the roadway and go down an embankment. When the ISP officer reached the scene, the car was gone.
As officers from Pocatello, Chubbuck, Bannock County and ISP continued to look for the vehicle, a call came in from Petco in Chubbuck near the Pine Ridge Mall that a man had entered the store with a handgun.
When offices arrived Wilson already had the teenager as a hostage and was outside of the Petco store on the sidewalk.
In addition to praise for the way police officers handled the incident, the Chubbuck chief had high praise for the quick actions of the night manager at Petco. Once Wilson and his hostage left the store, the male manager locked the doors to protect customers and employees still inside the store, including a man and his young daughter.
“Wilson tried to re-enter,” Severe said. “A lot of good, common sense was used there.”
Sheriff Neilsen said because it is an officer-involved shooting strict protocol will be followed during an investigation of the incident by an outside law enforcement agency. In this case, the Bingham County/Blackfoot investigative team will be in charge.
Once the investigation is completed, it will be turned over to either the Ada or Twin Falls County's prosecutors for a final determination, according to Herzog. An autopsy on Wilson is being conducted in Boise. The deputy involved has been placed on paid leave.
Neilsen said he is bothered by the increased need for these investigations.
“In my entire career I've been involved in five officer-involved shootings,” the veteran of 35 years in law enforcement said. “We've had three of them in the last 12 months.”
Neilsen said he suspects that stress from an ailing economy and the lack of mental health services in Idaho might be partially to blame.
“It's frustrating,” the sheriff said. “We don't hire officers to kill people. We hire them to help people.”