POCATELLO — The Fort Hall man armed with two large kitchen knives who Pocatello police fatally shot in February was shot five times, including twice to the head, according to his autopsy report.
The Idaho State Journal on Monday obtained the autopsy report of Neal Stuart Nevada, 23, of Fort Hall, from Bannock County Coroner Ely Taysom.
Nevada died in February as a result of an officer-involved shooting near the intersection of Stansbury Street and South Second Avenue in south Pocatello after aggressively charging police officers while armed with what authorities described as two “butcher’ style knives.
Though the autopsy report denotes the number and location of Nevada’s bullet wounds, of which one struck him in his lower back, it does not indicate the order of or lethality of the individual bullet wounds. Moreover, Idaho State Police, the agency tasked with investigating whether the officers who shot Nevada were justified in using lethal force, told the Journal on Tuesday that it did not investigate the sequential order of the bullet wounds and typically relies on the autopsy report for making such determinations.
While he was not present for the autopsy, which the Ada County Coroner's Office completed on Feb. 27, Taysom said determining the sequential order of Nevada’s bullet wounds is highly difficult if not impossible because the wounds occurred at or near the time of Nevada’s death and no bullets intersected one another.
“All of the wounds in this case occurred perimortem, which means at or near the time of death,” Taysom said. “If the trajectories of these wounds were intersecting then it could have been possible to determine which bullets entered first by looking for transecting bullet paths, which requires examining injuries to the skeleton. But with soft tissue it is really difficult to determine chronological order of bullet wounds.”
The autopsy report found the cause of Nevada’s death was gunshot wounds to the head and torso. In addition to the gunshot wound to his lower left back area, police shot Nevada twice in the head and twice in the right hip, the autopsy report says.
Taysom said he ruled the manner of Nevada’s death to be a homicide, which by definition is the action of one person directly causing the death of another regardless of whether the act was criminal or not. The Journal reported on Sunday that the two officers who shot Nevada were cleared of all wrongdoing in May.
The toxicology section of the autopsy report indicates Nevada was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana at the time of his death, with a blood-alcohol concentration of .218. The legal limit to operate a motor vehicle in the state of Idaho is .08.
Of the two bullet wounds to Nevada’s head, one entered and exited on the left side of his scalp above the ear and the other wound entered the left side of his head behind the ear and exited the right side of the head behind the ear. Both bullets penetrated Nevada’s skull and struck his brain, the autopsy report says.
The autopsy report says the bullet wound to Nevada’s back entered the left side of his lower back and exited through the left side of his body. One of the gunshot wounds that entered Nevada’s right hip perforated his pelvis and heart before becoming lodged in his colon., according to the autopsy. The other bullet that struck Nevada’s hip exited through his lower middle back.
None of Nevada's bullet wounds left behind any soot or gunpowder residue. If such residue were present it could suggest Nevada was shot at very close range.
In addition to articles of clothing, the autopsy report indicates that Nevada arrived at the Ada County Coroner's Office still wearing handcuffs.
Other than saying Nevada likely remained handcuffed after his death as a manner of evidence preservation, Pocatello Police Chief Roger Schei declined to comment about specifics of the autopsy report, referring all comments to the Idaho State Police.