The police were attempting to arrest 22-year-old Tanner Shoesmith, who was armed and already wanted for three outstanding warrants and—as a result of fleeing the police—an additional misdemeanor.
Shoesmith abandoned his car with his girlfriend still inside and proceeded to run through a series of suburban backyards. His girlfriend cooperated with the police.
She suggested they might be able to track his exact location with a device he was carrying. The police also spoke to multiple local residents, letting them know to stay in their homes while they pursued Shoesmith.
One of the residents they spoke to was Johnson, who returned to his home and proceeded to go to his backyard with a gun, likely to protect his home from any kind of threat.
The police proceeded to track Shoesmith's location, based on his girlfriend's recommendation. They calculated which residential backyard he was hiding in.
The police circled the backyard with their guns drawn. When a man with a gun became visible, one of the officers fired.
When the team realized they had not shot the suspect, some of the officers continued to pursue Shoesmith, while a few attempted to resuscitate Johnson. They were unsuccessful.
The police officer who shot Johnson has been placed on administrative leave while the department holds an investigation. Their name has not been released to the public.
Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson stated:
"This situation is devastatingly tragic for the family, for the officer, and those that love and care about them."
"We all feel the weight of what has occurred today."
"Our sincere sympathies are with the family and friends of those involved, most especially the family of the deceased."
Chief Johnson also suggested the tragedy was a mistake.
"We do not currently have the answers as to what exactly occurred during these moments."
"We do know that during this interaction, an Idaho Falls Police Officer discharged his service weapon firing one shot, which struck the man."
"Sometimes everyone does what they think is right. Tragedies happen."
Johnson left behind a wife and four children and was described as a wonderful husband, father and friend.
One neighbor spoke of Johnson:
"I never once thought there was a crisis going on like what happened. He's my friend. He's a really good friend."
"He was very loving. His children and wife adored him, and he adored them. He was a great dad."
"I taught him last summer how to grow tomatoes in pots. He absolutely loved it. He said he was going to do it every year."
One of Johnson's relatives, Rachel Williams, said:
"[He was a] loving husband and father to 4 beautiful little children."
"The whole family is in a state of shock and disbelief."
"We really hope the Idaho Falls community rallies around this little family as they process the lifetime of grief they must endure. We are all broken-hearted, and hurting so much for his wife and children."
Tammy Johnson, Johnson's mother, also shared her grief online.
When she received positive birthday wishes from her Facebook friends, she replied:
"Not a good Birthday; [lost] my sweet son."
Hannah Lynn, a relative, shared a GoFundMe to assist Johnson's wife and children during this time.
"We are going through an unimaginable family tragedy, thank you for your support for my sister and her children during this challenging time."
Friends and family shared their love, support and sadness for the family.
In the midst of the tragic loss of Joseph Johnson, Tanner Shoesmith was also caught shortly after the shooting.
The Bonneville County Sheriff's Department has since arrested Tanner Shoesmith and booked him on the three outstanding warrants he had, as well as the misdemeanor he earned for fleeing.