The Twin Falls County Prosecutor’s Office won’t bring charges against the Idaho Falls police officer who shot and killed Shane McVey on Jan. 23.
A memo on the findings by Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs states that McVey charged at Officer Earl Laughter III and Sgt. Patrick McKenna and attacked them with pepper spray. Loebs reviewed the investigation after the Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office said it had a conflict of interest due to a familial relation.
Laughter told investigators he feared he would be incapacitated by the pepper spray and that McVey would then seize his gun. Laughter shot McVey once in response.
The memo states Laughter was responding to a report that someone was trying to start a fire near the Common Cents convenience store on South Boulevard. The officer walked by a man working on his truck. He received a description of the suspect and realized the man he passed was McVey.
Dispatch informed Laughter that McVey had a warrant for felony grand theft with a persistent violator enhancement from Bingham County and a warrant from Bonneville County for misdemeanor driving without privileges, possession of drug paraphernalia and failure to appear.
Laughter told investigators he had never dealt with McVey, but had heard from other officers that he had been uncooperative and violent with law enforcement in the past.
The officer talked to a store employee and followed McVey’s footprints to the basement of a nearby apartment building. Hearing sounds of movement from the basement, Laughter requested assistance via dispatch. McKenna arrived to assist.
Laughter yelled for McVey to come out from the basement, identifying himself as a police officer. McVey came out of the basement area with an object in one hand while hiding his other hand behind his back. Laughter had a pistol drawn, and McKenna drew his Taser.
McVey refused several commands from the officers to stop and show his hands, ascending the stairs in what the officers described as a threatening manner. About five steps away from the top of the basement staircase, McVey charged the officers, spraying pepper spray at Laughter. Laughter fired one shot, killing McVey.
Idaho Falls police officers responded to the shooting and attempted to revive McVey with CPR. McVey was taken to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
An autopsy confirmed McVey died from the gunshot wound that went through his right shoulder and into his torso. The memo said a toxicology report found methamphetamine and amphetamine in McVey’s system. Needles were found in his truck and needle tracks were on his arms.
Loebs cited Idaho Code 18-4009, which lists circumstances under which a homicide may be found justifiable. The Idaho code allows shootings done to prevent someone from committing murder or a felony, when acting in self defense, or when necessary to apprehend someone who has committed a felony.
Loebs also cited Idaho Code 18-4010, which states that fear is not a sufficient justification for homicide. Loebs said the code didn’t apply because of the circumstances of the attack on Laughter and because McVey had a reputation for violence against police.
Idaho Code 18-4011 states law enforcement officers may use deadly force when resistance prevents them from performing their duty, but only if that resistance poses a threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to others.
“Here, Officer Laughter was clearly lawfully engaged in ‘the execution of some legal process’ and it would be impossible to prove that Officer Laughter, knowing all he knew and seeing all he saw, did not have probable cause to believe McVey posed a ‘threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or other persons.’” Loebs wrote in the memo.
The investigation conducted by the Eastern Idaho Regional Critical Incident Task Force found a letter McVey had sent the Bingham County Prosecutor’s Office regarding the arrest warrant for grand theft.
“I’ve been in jail and I’m not going back. I’ve led a good life except the last year and a half. I gotta file bankruptcy and start all over at age 54. I’m at that (sic) that I don’t give a (expletive), (unreadable) and you now have my address. I’m not going to jail again over this. So know this Sir, when your boys in blue come to get me you ask yourself if this (expletive) charge is worth my life, cuz I swear to my dear GOD all mighty I’m gonna make them shoot me. If I have to choss (sic) between jail or going to my maker, I’m going to the grave. Sincerely Shane McVey.”
McVey had posted on Facebook about his financial struggles and run-ins with the law in the months leading up to his death. District Judge Daren Simpson on Jan. 17 issued a $178,137.04 default judgment against McVey and co-defendant Tavia Lynn McVey of McVey Concrete. Simpson ruled in favor of the plaintiff Tim Williams.
Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson said during a Friday news conference that the letter corroborated Laughter’s and McKenna’s fear of harm when McVey charged at them. He said the officers acted correctly to McVey’s actions, but the department would examine the case to find room for improvement.
“We always look at everything we do and look at how we need to do better. That is a universal statement,” Johnson said.
Idaho Falls law enforcement were not made aware of the letter to the Bingham County Prosecutor’s Office before confronting McVey. Idaho Falls Police Department Spokeswoman Holly Cook said after the news conference that Johnson had no concerns about how the Bingham County Prosecutor’s Office handled the letter.
Johnson said neither officer was wearing a body camera during the shooting, and that only half of patrol officers use body cameras. Officers responding after the shooting were wearing body cameras that captured police efforts to revive McVey.
Laughter has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting. Johnson said Laughter is recovering from a surgery related to a July 4 bicycle accident and will return to the force when ready.
An internal review is underway to examine department policy following the shooting. Johnson said a report would be submitted to the Use of Force Review Board in about two weeks.
Reporter Johnathan Hogan can be reached at 208-542-6746.