Mom called Boise police for son’s welfare. Report reveals new details of his fatal shooting

Boise officers planned to arrest 26-year-old Zachary Snow in October 2021 after his family members called the police to inform them he was suicidal and attempting to jump off a structure near downtown, according to an investigative report obtained by the Idaho Statesman. Instead, Snow was fatally shot.

The report revealed details for the first time of officers surrounding Snow to arrest him on an outstanding warrant after police were told of his location in a call about his mental health.

The report by the Critical Incident Task Force, which investigates police shootings, included interviews with four of the officers present during the fatal police shooting and was provided to the Statesman upon request by the city. It’s the first time Boise has publicly released a CITF investigative report involving one of its officers.

Melissa Walton, Snow’s mother, sued the city in federal court for the way officers approached Snow — who died of his injuries a few days after the shooting — and accused the officers of rushing in. According to the complaint, Snow wasn’t committing a crime, harming anyone or doing anything to cause officers to believe he “was a threat to the officers” or to the public.

The officers were all informed that Snow had a felony warrant for his arrest before approaching him. None were aware of what his warrant was for. According to online court records, a judge issued a misdemeanor warrant for his arrest after he failed to appear for an August 2021 hearing. KTVB first reported the warrant.

“I’m not mad,” Walton previously told reporters. “I am broken. But I can’t take back that call. I can’t change the fact that I thought reaching out to 911 was gonna save my son’s life. Nothing that I can do will ever bring my son back.”

Boise officials say CITF reports will be public

When the Critical Incident Task Force completes an investigation into a police shooting, the Boise Police Department will typically publish a news release summarizing the report’s findings and whether the officer was justified in using deadly force. But the reports that conclude those findings have never been released to the public.

Instead, the reports and accompanying body-camera footage must be acquired through the public records process, which can cost hundreds of dollars or more. Boise police have released an edited portion of the body-camera footage, and the city’s Office of Police Accountability has published an investigative report on its findings.

The report on Snow’s shooting is the first CITF report the Statesman has obtained that involved a Boise police officer. Other Treasure Valley agencies have provided their reports through the public records process at a much lower cost. The Ada County Sheriff’s Office provides the reports for free.

Boise officials previously told the Statesman that they now planned to publish completed CITF reports online at no cost after the newspaper made repeated requests for such a system and pushed back about the high costs of the reports.

Zachary Snow was located by police near South Capitol Boulevard and West Myrtle Street in downtown Boise on the evening of Oct. 27.
Zachary Snow was located by police near South Capitol Boulevard and West Myrtle Street in downtown Boise on the evening of Oct. 27.

Report details 2021 shooting

Boise officers Matt Jacobs and Clifton Snodderly shot and killed 26-year-old Snow near Jacksons Food Stores off of Capitol Boulevard after he “took a shooter’s stance” and pointed a black object at Jacobs, according to police. Law enforcement later determined that Snow wasn’t holding a firearm but a black portable speaker.

Both officers were cleared by the city’s oversight office and an outside prosecutor.

The newly released 72-page CITF report outlines interviews and information collected by the Garden City Police Department, which forwarded its findings to the Gem County Prosecutor’s Office for review. Gem County Prosecutor Erick B. Thomson determined the officers were justified in firing their weapons and “acted in self-defense,” according to a 2022 news release.

‘“Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of Zachary Snow,” then-Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee said in the news release. “The Boise Police Department values the sanctity of human life, and it pains our officers any time we face this type of situation. Our condolences go out to the officers and their families as well following this incident.”

Two other Boise officers — who responded to the incident but didn’t fire their weapons — were also named in the report. Boise Police Officer Travis Buffi said he didn’t shoot Snow because he realized he wasn’t holding a firearm, the report said. Boise Police Officer Adam Crist, one of the department’s neighborhood contact officers, said he had run back to his vehicle to grab a less lethal weapon and didn’t witness the shooting, according to the report.

Buffi told investigators there wasn’t enough time to tell the other officers before they fired and that if he had been positioned on the north side of the building, he might have perceived the speaker differently.

“There was no time to verbalize anything,” Buffi said, according to the report.

Crist was the first officer to find Snow sitting in a dirt parking lot that was flanked by walls on three sides around 5:30 p.m. Oct. 27, 2021, according to the report. Crist, who was dressed in plain clothes, parked at a nearby Shell gas station and while observing Snow directed officers on a plan to approach him.

Jacobs was instructed to approach with a team from the south side staying against the building so that officers had “concealment until the last moment” before contacting Snow, the report said. Crist said he was “very thankful” for the location of the incident because it allowed officers to surround Snow and limit his ability to “flee or harm someone else.”

Once officers established the plan, Jacobs and Buffi drove down the 8th Street alley past the alcove in an unmarked vehicle, while Snodderly stopped behind them in a patrol car, the report said. Jacobs approached from the northeast of the building while Snodderly approached from the southeast. Buffi was in front of Snodderly on the southeast side of the building and closest to Snow.

Immediately after Jacobs left his vehicle, he said Snow made eye contact with him and jumped up “very quickly,” angling his body toward Jacob and reaching to his lower back. Jacob said he believed Snow was reaching for a weapon.

Jacobs said he was concerned that Snow was going to complete “suicide by cop,” at which point he yelled, “I don’t wanna do this,” according to the report and body-cam footage. Snow then pointed a black object at Jacobs, who fired his firearm four times at Snow, the report said. Snodderly fired his weapon three times.

Throughout their interviews, all four of the officers said Snow could have prevented the shooting by complying with Jacobs’ command to show his hands, and both Buffi and Jacobs said they believed Snow wanted to complete suicide by cop, according to the report. Walton previously said she informed officers Snow was unarmed and would’ve made officers shoot him rather than go back to prison.

“I called 911 because my son’s mental health was in crisis,” Snow’s mother Melissa Walton previously told reporters. “And they responded by killing him.”