By Cameron Rasmusson
One year ago Wednesday, Jeanetta Riley was killed by Sandpoint police officers when they were called to deal with a disturbance at Bonner General Health.
Her death is still fresh in the minds of many residents, some of whom turned out yesterday to remember her at a memorial near the site of her death. For event speakers like Eric Ridgway, the circumstances behind her passing are too important for the community to forget. Rather than deepen divisions between public servants and private citizens, Ridgway sees the incident as a catalyst for change.
“I’m not wanting to condemn those officers or the police department or law enforcement in general, but I am a huge proponent of changing the way we do things,” he said.
About three dozen turned out for the memorial, which followed up a similar event held after the shooting last year. Co-organizer Dan Mimmack distributed flowers and invited attendees to share their thoughts on the incident. He credited co-organizer Jodi Rawson for spearheading the drive to ensure another memorial happened this year.
“I am one with this woman,” Rawson said. “This could have happened to me. It could have happened to you.”
For Ridgway and Dan Mimmack, one of the event co-organizers, procedure was indeed to blame Riley’s death. They saw the responding officers’ actions as a projection of their training. Rather than attempt to calm down the woman, who suffered from mental illness and substance abuse issues, they relied on deadly force.
“Police handled this the way they were trained to handle this but without considering the nuances of mental illlness,” Ridgway said.
Mimmack believes that the city hasn’t been idle since the day of the shooting. He is confident that elected figures and law enforcement have discussed how to keep this from happening again.
“Like a lot of things in this town, fatalities bring change,” he said. “It’s just a shame someone has to die for that change to happen.”