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Mother of man fatally shot by Boise police files civil claim ahead of possible lawsuit

The mother of Payton Wasson — a 22-year-old Nampa man shot and killed by Boise police this summer — has filed a tort claim against the city and is seeking millions in damages for the death of her son.

The complaint, obtained by the Idaho Statesman on Thursday afternoon from the city through a public records request, said Marah Wasson has suffered “mental anguish, emotional distress and physical manifestations” because of Payton Wasson’s death. The civil complaint asks for no less than $5 million.

The Chicago-based law firm representing the Wasson family alleged in the complaint that Marah Wasson is also entitled to damages under federal and state law for the costs of her son’s hospitalization before his death, in addition to the “pain and suffering” he endured, funeral expenses and punitive damages. The claim also seeks compensation for the loss of Payton Wasson’s “companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice.”

Marah Wasson’s “beautiful, sweet, amazing baby boy is now gone,” the complaint read. “(Marah) Wasson never imagined that, one day, she would have to bury her own son.”

Payton Wasson died at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise around 1 p.m. June 25. Boise police haven’t disclosed how many shots struck Wasson, but the Ada County coroner’s report showed at least one hit him in the head. According to the complaint, that bullet couldn’t be removed surgically. Hospital personnel identified him as no longer exhibiting any brain activity, according to the complaint, leading Wasson’s family to decide to take him off life support.

Before someone can consider suing a public agency for allegedly violating state law, Idaho first requires that a tort claim be filed. The agency then has 90 days to respond.

City spokesperson Maria Weeg declined to comment Thursday, citing the initial stages of a legal process that a tort claims starts.

“From time to time the information contained in the tort claim is different than what is contained in the following lawsuit, so commenting at this point would be premature and could interfere with future legal proceedings,” Weeg wrote in an email to the Statesman.

Family still awaiting police body-camera footage

Jennifer McGuffin, a spokesperson for Chicago-based law firm Romanucci & Blandin, which is representing the Wasson family, told the Statesman by email that filing the tort claim was challenging because it requires details of the incident. The “family has yet to be allowed to view body- or dash-cam footage to understand the truth of what happened,” she said.

Wasson’s family also hasn’t received any “relevant reports” from the police department, according to the complaint.

A Boise police officer shot and killed Wasson in downtown Boise this summer, in the early morning hours of June 24. Police had a “patrol team” in the area investigating possible gang-related crimes, including narcotics sales, Boise police spokesperson Haley Williams previously told the Statesman.

As part of an ongoing investigation, officers were focused on a “suspicious vehicle” in a parking lot near 5th and Main streets and the individuals associated with it, police said in a news release the night of the shooting. The individuals were later identified as Wasson, as well as Mario Garza, 27, of Kuna, and Garza’s girlfriend, Jordan Smith, 26, of Caldwell.

Police vehicles approached Wasson, Garza and Smith, at the corner of 5th and Idaho streets at 2:12 a.m., according to security camera footage from a nearby retail store obtained by the Statesman. Wasson fled on foot and officers saw a gun in his hand, police said and Garza and Smith confirmed in interviews with the Statesman.

Garza was arrested, while Smith was released at the scene. Garza now faces three felony charges, including two counts of possessing fentanyl with intent to deliver, and a felony gang enhancement. Garza and Smith both told the Statesman that they never saw Wasson with a gun that day.

Officer Chance Feldner, who had 8 1/2 years with the department, was the lone officer to shoot Wasson, police said. Wasson was transported with life-threatening injuries. Marah Wasson wasn’t contacted about her son being hospitalized until about 12 hours after the shooting, the complaint said, first receiving a social worker’s phone call around 2:15 p.m. June 24. Less than 24 hours later, the coroner pronounced Payton Wasson dead.

His cause of death was a gunshot wound of the head, according to the Ada County Coroner’s Office.

Citing the ongoing Critical Incident Task Force investigation, the Boise Police Department has repeatedly refused to say how many times Feldner fired his weapon, how many of those rounds struck Wasson, or where they hit him. The CITF investigation is triggered after any police shootings in Ada and Canyon counties. Police also have declined to release officer body-camera footage.

Garza awaits his scheduled trial in February.