Report finds: Deputy justified in fatal shooting of knife-wielding man outside Preston grocery store

Stokes Marketplace

PRESTON, IDAHO — Prosecutors have determined a Franklin County deputy was justified when he shot and killed a 50-year-old Grace man outside a grocery store last fall. Raul Antonio Menjivar-Saabedra was shot three times by Deputy Kelly Biggs, after charging toward law enforcement in the parking lot of Stokes Marketplace.

In a press release, Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Vic Pearson concluded that there was no evidence to support any criminal charges against deputies or officers. He said, “The facts in this case reveal that Saabedra made himself a clear and immediate danger to Deputy Biggs who was engaged in the lawful performance of his duties.

Pearson’s report also detailed the events that led up to the shooting November 18, 2019. It was compiled from witness statements, video and audio evidence, and other physical evidence gathered by the Pocatello Police Department, who led the investigation.

The report described how 911 dispatch operators received a call from Stokes Marketplace regarding Saabedra around 8:30 p.m. He was reportedly acting suspicious and appeared to be mentally unstable, stating that he was going to be tortured and killed by unknown individuals associated with a church because he had sinned.

Saabedra had a 13 inch kitchen knife that was taken from a store shelf and concealed in his jacket. He continued to show signs of paranoia, telling the deputies and officers repeatedly in Spanish that he wanted them to kill him.

Pearson said law enforcement were able to convince Saabedra to exit the store after about an hour. They continued to speak with him outside, attempting to get him to put the knife down and leave with an ecclesiastical leader that had arrived on the scene.

The report stated that at this point, Saabedra began to pray. He then took several steps toward law enforcement. The three men ordered him to stop and then deployed their duty tasers.

Pearson explained that the tasers had no effect. It was later believed that the clothes Saabedra was wearing prevented the taser prongs from attaching properly.

The report then described the final moments, as Saabedra charged towards Deputy Biggs with the knife in his hand.

Deputy Biggs shot Saabedra once in the shoulder and then two more times, after the suspect continued to move toward him. He landed on his stomach and was then rolled over by another officer so the knife could be removed.

Saabedra was placed onto his side into a recovery type position to clear his airway and life saving measures were started. An ambulance also responded to the scene to attempt to revive the suspect. They pronounced him dead shortly after 10:30 p.m., about two hours after police were first dispatched to the store.

Pearson explained that it was later discovered that Saabedra had just been released from a behavioral health unit in Logan for suicidal threats. He had been there for a week receiving treatment.

Deputy Biggs described to investigators how Saabedra rushed toward him with the tip of the knife blade pointed in an upward direction. He said, “if he did not take some kind of action, he would not have gone home that night.”

The report outlined seven ways the shooting could have been avoided through numerous choices Saabedra refused to make. He said that an officer is justified in using deadly force to overcome resistance when they have probable cause to believe the resistance poses a threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or other persons.

Pearson concluded, “This appears to be a situation where Saabedra was attempting ‘suicide by cop’ and succeeded in his attempt.

Franklin County Sheriff David Fryar said the deputies involved in the shooting had been on administrative leave during the investigation. They were cleared this week to return to work.

Saabedra was originally from El-Salvador. He was working at a dairy farm in Grace.

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