Trial for man accused of shooting Bingham County deputy begins in Blackfoot

Trial for man accused of shooting Bingham County deputy begins

BLACKFOOT, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - The trial for Juan Santos-Quintero began in Bingham County Court Tuesday.

Among the items presented as evidence were the gun allegedly used to shoot Bingham County Sgt. Todd Howell, the vest Howell was wearing when he was shot, the bullet removed from Howell’s body and several photos and graphs. 

But the incident actually began days before Quintero allegedly shot Howell on Sept. 21, 2018.

It all started in a Walmart parking lot on Sept. 16, 2018, when Josh Fuhriman went inside to grab a snack. 

Fuhriman had left his doors unlocked and his dog inside. He had no reason to expect anyone would try to break in. 

It wasn’t until he had stopped to get some gas that Fuhriman realized a pair of binoculars, an old typewriter and his Ruger handgun were missing. 

It would be that same gun that would wound Sgt. Todd Howell after a standoff in Firth, just days later. 

On Sept. 21, 2018, the Bingham County Sheriff’s Office received a call of shots fired after a man driving in the Wolverine area witnessed a vehicle in front of his open fire out of the passenger side window. 

The witness followed the blueish-green vehicle to a residence in Firth, next to the grade school. He then called law enforcement to let them know where the vehicle had stopped. 

The witness waited outside and watched two people, one male and one female, enter the home. 

At first, three Bingham County deputies responded: Sgt. Howell, Dep. Van Orton and Dep. Katseanes. 

The officers ran the plate numbers of one of the vehicles in the driveway and discovered that the owner, Denise Williams, was wanted in connection to a string of robberies in Idaho Falls. This caused officers to change their plan of approach. 

By this time, Cori Williams and homeowner Doug Long had come outside and begun talking to officers. Long never told officers exactly who was inside but stated he believed it was the “people you are looking for.” 

Officers then began calling out for those in the house to "come out with their hands up," first just by yelling and then with a PA system. The officers continued to do this for a while before Denise Williams, Cori’s daughter, came out and surrendered. 

When questioned by officers she said no one else was inside and that the man she had been in the car with, who she identified as “Junior Sanchez,” had gotten scared and run out the backdoor into a field. 

Officers were hesitant to believe this was the case, since the driver had witnessed a male and female exit the vehicle, and continued to call inside. 

Soon after, one deputy moved to the back of the house and made calls of contact, claiming he had seen a head and shoulder peek out of the back door of the residence. 

Sgt. Howell began to move towards the back side of the house. He rounded a corner and realized he would be in a crossfire situation and began to move. It was then that he was shot. 

Howell said he remembers a flash and one shot before he fell to the ground. Other officers said it was initially between two or three shots. 

They heard a grunt and Howell fell, immediately calling out “officer down” and returning fire at the door. 

The other deputies were unsure of what had happened, not knowing if Howell had actually been hit or if he was just fired upon. They returned fire across the back of the door, believing that was where the suspect was. 

Howell complained of a pain in his hip as one deputy moved to get him out of harm's way. 

No blood or entry wound was immediately visible to those tending to Howell before he was sent to EIRMC. 

Officers that remained on location returned volleys of fire with the suspect.

The suspect remained in the home for several hours as officers continued to maintain cover behind a tree in the backyard. 

Later that evening, the area STAR team showed up and put a spotlight on the backdoor while negotiators worked to get him to come outside. 

It was only a few minutes after STAR arrived that Juan Santos-Quintero walked out the door with a cell-phone in one hand and a bottle of alcohol, as well as what some officers believed to be a pocket knife, in the other. A pocket knife was also seen in his pants, one deputy said. 

Authorities were able to get Quintero to turn around and face the house. Moments later, he was tackled, cuffed and taken into custody.

Quintero waived his right to a jury trial and 29 witnesses are expected to testify before Judge Simpson.

Nearly half of those 29 testified Tuesday, including Denise Williams who refused to answer any questions and racked up 13 contempt of court violations for doing so. 

The state said that five or six more hours of testimony are expected on Wednesday. 

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