Idaho man sentenced to at least 10 years in prison after ramming police vehicle

·6 min read
Provided by Jon Young

Just after 26-year-old Ezra Smith was sentenced to spend at least the next 10 years in prison, he was allowed to hug his grandmother goodbye.

The Treasure Valley resident, who rammed a stolen U-Haul van into a Boise Police Department patrol car several times, was sentenced by 4th District Judge Derrick O’Neill to at least 10 years in prison on Tuesday, meaning he’ll be eligible for parole after that fixed sentence. Smith also received a sentence of 15 years indeterminate, which means he could spend that time in prison, on parole or both.

He is also expected to pay $78,070 in restitution: over $33,000 to law enforcement agencies and over $44,000 to victims.

“My first reaction is to puff up and read you the riot act because I’m so abhorred by your conduct,” O’Neill said during the sentencing. “I can’t discount the findings of the citizens of Ada County that said you clearly exhibited an intent to batter and assault police officers.”

During the incident, two Boise police officers fired 10 rounds at Smith. Ada County Public Defender Craig Michael Cannon, Smith’s attorney, said six of the bullets hit Smith.

In a tort claim obtained by the Idaho Statesman, Smith said that he suffered multiple face and body fractures and permanent nerve damage, which resulted in “loss of feeling/sensation in (the) right side of face and neck.” He also has post-traumatic stress disorder, night terrors and anxiety, he said.

The tort claim is a necessary step if a citizen wants to sue a public agency, and Smith served notice in his that he would sue police and the city for “excessive force and police malpractice.” It’s unclear what the current status of Smith’s claim is.

Throughout the roughly 45-minute sentencing, both the prosecution and Cannon outlined Smith’s long history of substance abuse. O’Neill emphasized that Smith hasn’t been able to stay sober since he was 15 years old.

Cannon said Smith has remained sober for the past year — while he has been in jail — and added that some time in custody would help him stay that way.

“The seriousness of the situation has not been lost on me,” Smith said through tears in a personal statement in court.

As Smith hugged his grandmother goodbye, he could be heard telling her that he loved her and that it was going to be OK.

Smith convicted after car chase, confrontation with police

Smith was convicted in March of three felonies: aggravated battery upon certain law enforcement personnel, aggravated assault upon certain law enforcement personnel and a deadly weapon enhancement, according to online court records.

Smith also pleaded guilty to other charges related to the incident: grand theft, eluding a police officer in a motor vehicle, driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance — all felonies, according to court records and the prosecutor’s office. He also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor attempted petit theft.

He was sentenced on all eight charges Tuesday.

In July 2021, officers arrested Smith after he rammed the stolen U-Haul van into a patrol car. The incident started when Boise police officers were called to the 7000 block of Overland Road, near a home improvement store, after receiving reports of a reckless driver. Authorities said at the time that the suspect might be driving under the influence.

The initial pursuit was called off by a BPD sergeant, who called it too dangerous to continue.

Three officers later found Smith near a home on Riley Court.

Officers fired a total of 10 rounds at Smith, according to a report released in late May by Boise’s Office of Police Accountability, though Smith alleged in his tort claim that police fired 12 rounds.

Defense, prosecution clash on criminal history

During the sentencing, Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Whitney Welsh pointed to Smith’s criminal history, which she said showed Smith was not deterred by past punishments and should therefore face a harsher sentence.

“He absolutely caused and threatened harm,” Welsh said. “He knew that this conduct would cause or threaten harm and did it intentionally over, and over, and over again.”

The prosecution asked for a sentence of up to 30 years, with at least 12 to be served in prison before the possibility of parole.

Cannon said there is a stark difference between Smith when he is sober and abusing substances. He emphasized the role addiction played in Smith’s decisions.

“The sober Ezra is somebody who can be rehabilitated,” Cannon said. “Sober Ezra is somebody who can get back on the path that he was on prior to becoming involved in drugs.”

The defense requested a sentence of up to 12 years, with at least five to be served in prison before parole.

Welsh said Smith has gone through substance abuse and mental health rehabilitation programs but relapsed multiple times. Cannon said Smith’s attempts at rehabilitation shouldn’t be held against him.

“I would hate to think we are punishing someone because they sought out treatment,” Cannon said.

BPD clears officers of wrongdoing

The report from the Office of Police Accountability cleared the Boise police officers of any wrongdoing but also questioned some of the actions by officers and suggested policy enhancements.

Boise police released the names of two of the three officers: David Skube and R. Denny, who were both eight-year veterans with the department at the time of the incident. Denny is no longer with the department, BPD spokesperson Haley Williams told the Statesman previously.

Williams declined to name the third officer and said the department named only the officers who fired their weapons. The Statesman identified the third officer through court records as Camron Johnson, who has been with the department since 2015.

The three officers were cleared by the Critical Incident Task Force in December, according to the Boise Police Department, but that was never announced. The CITF uses investigators from uninvolved Ada County police agencies and a prosecutor from outside the county to review police shootings.

“The CITF report was completed by the task force and officers were cleared by an outside prosecutor in December,” Williams told the Statesman by text in May. “At the time, a criminal case was still pending against Mr. Smith and additional details were not released.”

Smith also pleads guilty in domestic violence case

Smith also pleaded guilty, in a separate case, to battery domestic violence with traumatic injury in May, according to online court records. He was initially charged as well with felony attempted strangulation.

On Feb. 12, 2021, according to a criminal complaint obtained by the Statesman, Smith put his hand on his wife’s throat and applied pressure in an attempt to choke or strangle her. Almost a month later, Smith was accused of hitting his wife underneath her eye.

Emily Lowe, spokesperson for the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office, told the Statesman by text that Smith is expected to be sentenced in the domestic violence case on Aug. 31.

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