Investigators are looking into the possibility that a shooting at a Boise rally against police violence Monday was intentional. No one was injured, but the shooting ratcheted up tension at an otherwise peaceful protest.
Americans have taken to the streets across the country to protest police brutality after a Minneapolis man was killed while in police custody. A now ex-officer was charged in the killing of George Floyd. The protests in Boise have remained peaceful, but the incident threatened to upset the calm.
A man carrying a rifle fired a round into the ground near the State Capitol before being disarmed by a protester, according to witnesses. Police quickly took Michael Daniel Wallace, 18, into custody.
Witnesses say the suspected shooter had been pacing up and down throughout the rally, yelling at protesters, armed with a rifle and a handgun and wearing military-style tactical gear. Indeed, videos posted to Facebook show a man in tactical gear with a rifle walking back and forth through the crowd.
A video shared with BSPR of the moments leading up to the incident shows the shooter conferring with a group of counter-protesters carrying Confederate flags. He then walks away, past the camera and seconds later there is a gunshot. A protester quickly swoops in, takes away the rifle and pulls out the ammunition magazine.
The protester who took the video asked not to be named for fear it could imperil her job. She said she suspected the shooter may have been trying to change a peaceful atmosphere. Before the shot, she said protesters and a group of supporters of President Donald Trump had made peace after initial tension.
“That shot, it was more of an intimidation kind of a thing,” she said. “And my reaction was to scream, you (expletive) idiot.”
Jonathan Gordon was one of the Trump supporters at the rally. He backed up the account of unity among participants and said he and his friends had even been chanting with the protesters to show their support.
Then came the gunshot.
“It had a very destabilizing effect,” Gordon said. “It split both groups up immediately.”
Both of the witnesses said things calmed down after Wallace was arrested and remained peaceful. But they also know it could have sparked something ugly.
“It almost seemed like it was coordinated to agitate the whole entire situation,” Gordon said. “Especially after everyone was getting along well.”
And indeed, after initially saying the shooting appeared accidental, police now say that might not be the case.
“It does not appear that that was intended to harm anyone although there is some discrepancy on whether it was intentional or not,” Boise Interim Police Chief Ron Winegar said at a Tuesday press conference.
Boise Police spokeswoman Haley Williams said after officers spoke to witnesses, they forwarded their findings to prosecutors, who could amend the charge if they can prove intention.