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BIA officer cleared in fatal Lame Deer shooting

Posted at 2:23 PM, Jul 21, 2022

BILLINGS - The U.S. Attorney's Office announced Thursday it will not pursue criminal charges against a Bureau of Indian Affairs officer who fatally shot a man in Lame Deer late last year.

Arlin Bordeaux, 29, was killed on Dec. 2 during a confrontation with two BIA officers who responded to a call of a suspicious man near a residence on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.

“After a thorough investigation by the FBI into the shooting of Mr. Bordeaux by a BIA officer and an extensive review by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the office has declined to prosecute the case," a press release from federal prosecutors states.

Authorities said evidence indicates Bordeaux was "acting in a peculiar manner" and "disobeyed orders to get on the ground" before fighting with an officer. The officer called for assistance and a second BIA officer arrived.

"Using non-lethal methods, including tasers, both officers tried unsuccessfully to gain control of Mr. Bordeaux, who was taller and heavier than the officers," the press release states. "During the fighting, Mr. Bordeaux obtained the assisting officer’s taser and was within arm’s reach of the responding officer. Believing the taser could incapacitate the responding officer or himself, the assisting officer shot Mr. Bordeaux twice. The first shot was through the back. The assisting officer shot Mr. Bordeaux a second time, in the shoulder, because Mr. Bordeaux again reached for the taser while he was still within arm’s reach of the responding officer. Both officers received minor injuries."

An autopsy determined Bordeaux died from the second shot, which nicked his heart. Authorities said the autopsy also showed Bordeaux had methamphetamine in his system.

The press release concludes:

“As in all cases under its consideration, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is responsible for determining whether the government can prove each element of a federal crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute, prosecutors would have to establish that the assisting officer’s actions were objectively unreasonable under the circumstances, and that his actions were willful. To establish willfulness, the government must show that the officer acted with deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids – one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law. An officer reasonably believing that he or she is acting in self-defense or defense of others – even if predicated on mistake, misperception, negligence or poor judgment – is insufficient to establish this high standard.

“After a careful and thorough review into the facts surrounding the shooting, the evidence, when viewed as whole, is insufficient to prove that the officer’s actions were ‘objectively unreasonable’ under the law. The evidence is also insufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer acted willfully, that is with the specific intent to break the law.

“Accordingly, the investigation into this tragic incident has been closed. This decision is limited to the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s inability to meet the high legal standard required to prosecute the case under the applicable federal civil rights statute; it does not reflect an assessment of any other aspect of the shooting.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to investigating allegations of excessive force by law enforcement officers and will continue to ensure that all such allegations are fully investigated and aggressively prosecuted whenever there is sufficient evidence to do so.”

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