About 100 friends, family and acquaintances gathered at the Idaho Building on Feb. 23 to honor the memory of 26-year-old Michael Casper, who was killed in a police-involved shooting at his home on Feb. 16
Amanda Casper needed to clear her head. As she walked by a Boise pawn shop Feb. 23, the violent death of her brother, Michael Casper, only one week prior, was still fresh in her mind and heavy on her heart.
"And I saw a skateboard in the pawn shop. I just had to buy it," Amanda said. "I rode it at a local skatepark today, and I just knew if I fell, Michael would catch me. I felt Michael was with me today."
As she spoke, two skateboards sat a few feet away, propped against a wreath of daisies wrapped in a white sash with the words, "In loving memory of Michael Casper." The back room of the Idaho Building, which comfortably accommodates 15 people, was packed with about 50 mourners on the afternoon of Feb. 23. A line of nearly 50 more people, young and old, snaked out the door, down a hallway and onto Eighth Street. Some were fellow skateboarders, some were former co-workers and quite a few were members of Casper's extended family.
"My son looks just like Michael," said Amanda.
Turning to look at the photo of her late brother, she began to sob.
"Whoever was with him that night he was shot should have stayed him him," Amanda said, her voice rising. "None of this would have happened."
She then fell into the arms of Pastor Renee McCall, who presided over the memorial. Amanda's next words were clearly audible.
"Damn it, Chris," she said.
Chris McIntire may have the most to say about what exactly happened to Michael Casper in the early morning hours of Feb. 15, when the 26-year-old was fatally shot by Boise police following an early morning disturbance at his duplex.
"To be honest, there's still a lot of conjecture and hearsay," McIntire told Boise Weekly. "I was with him that night. I think I can say exactly what happened. But the reasons should remain between him and his family."
That's quite different from the stance McIntire took in the days after the incident, when he took to Facebook to welcome any and all people curious about the events of leading to Casper's death to contact him directly.
"If anyone has questions about Michael Casper and his death, please contact me," wrote McIntire. "I was with him the night of the shooting and was the last person to speak to him. We became brothers, and a part of me is now gone. There is much confusion surrounding the events of that night. I am grieving and my heart is heavy, but he needs the air to be cleared. Call me day or night."
The Facebook post, which included McIntire's personal phone number, has since been deleted.
The sparse details of the incident—the who, what, when and where—may satisfy the curious, but none of the information eases the grief of the tragedy. The circumstances surrounding the death of Casper, shot by a Boise police officer, remain a mystery; and what has followed has been a mini social-media firestorm.
Pastor McCall, who is also Casper's aunt, cautioned those attending his memorial service.
"[Don't] pay any attention to the nastiness that has been printed in the newspapers," she said. "What they're saying about Michael isn't true."
"Objective, my ass," he said, referring to previous media accounts of the Feb. 16 incident. "There are a lot of stories out there, and I believe it will make more sense a year from now. For now, his family and I have to do some soul-searching to come to terms with everything."
According to those friends and family BW spoke to, Casper had everything to live for. No one knew that more than his mother, Fran Gough, who gave birth to Casper on Oct. 12, 1988.
"Mikee—that's what all of his family called him—Mikee was always dreaming big," said Gough. "He never spoke negatively about anybody. He was always there with grace when someone wanted something. He'll live on in a lot of people's hearts."
Mike Casper was remembered as a "lovely young man" who "was going everywhere. He never sat still."
Casper, who took his last name from father, Ron Casper, also of Boise, was the middle child of three: his sister Laura the oldest, his sister Amanda the youngest. By the time Casper graduated from Boise High School in 2007, he had already moved into his own apartment and was working as an order selector at the Winco Distribution Center in southeast Boise. Over the next several years, Casper acquired and sold some property and a few months before his death, he founded Idaho Solar Power, a Boise-based alternative energy firm.
"He had more hopes and dreams than anyone I ever knew," said Gough. "He was going everywhere. He never sat still."
Casper was on the fast track. He would park his Harley-Davidson motorcycle inside, telling family and friends that being "able to park your Harley in the front room" was one of the perks of being single.
"But skateboarding was his absolute passion. He would skateboard at City Hall, behind schools and anywhere with stairs," said Gough, adding that her son gravitated to the mountains in the winter. "And snowboarding. Oh my, yes, snowboarding."
Gough was eager to share memories of happier days, but she took a long pause as she looked at the clock.
"I have to go pick up Mikee's ashes," she said. "He'll be staying with his mother from now on."
Gough didn't talk much about the questions surrounding her son's death, but she's certain that there are too many inconsistencies with the events of Feb. 16.
"I think there was somebody else involved. The cops say there wasn't, but I truly think somebody was with him," she said.
McIntire later told BW he was certain that Casper's choices that fateful night—including the fact that Casper was brandishing a weapon—were not "suicide by cop."
"I wanted to clear the air a little bit," McIntire said. "There are a lot of stories that the police are trigger-happy. I can dispel that myth. I would appreciate it if a lot of people on Facebook would leave it alone."
McIntire's on-again, off-again desire to disclose the details of what happened doesn't sit well with a few other of Casper's close friends, including Matthew Moss, who said that he was puzzled by how anxious McIntire was to "get his story out," at least initially.
"Did you see that Facebook post?" asked Moss, who met Casper when the two worked together at Winco. "It's a little overboard, the way he's trying to put his stuff out. Chris [McIntire] calls me out of the blue on the night after the shooting and proceeds to tell me his side of the story."
Standard protocol indicates the public will not get the results of the full investigation for months, but this is what we do know: Casper and McIntire were together on the night of Feb. 15 and into the early morning hours of Feb. 16. They had gone to a bar and returned to Casper's home in a duplex at Malad and Gourley streets on the Bench. Moss told BW that McIntire and his girlfriend had an argument earlier that evening, and McIntire had asked to spend the night at Casper's place. What happened between the time the two returned to Casper's from the bar and a short time later when Casper was fatally shot by a Boise police officer is still being investigated.
The Ada County Critical Incident Task Force is taking the lead in the probe. The task force includes members of the Garden City, Meridian and Boise police departments; the Ada County Sheriff's Office; and the Idaho State Police.
Following the shooting, an official statement from the Boise Police Department said officers heard a crashing sound and what sounded like gunshots coming from inside Casper's home. Police also said bullet holes were later discovered in a home across the street and in a nearby car. BPD officer Jason Green, a six-and-a-half-year veteran of the force, was the first on the scene after neighbors alerted police to the sound of smashing glass. The police report indicated Green attempted to contact Casper, but when he pointed a gun at another officer, Green fired, striking him in the chest. The following day, Ada County Coroner Dotti Owens, (who was sworn into her new position a few weeks ago), ruled that Casper died of a gunshot wound to the chest.
"Chris [McIntire] said Mike [Casper] was acting real weird and depressed, which is completely untrue, because we all talk to him regularly and he's happier than hell, and there's a whole bunch of things to back this up," said Michael Burns, who had known Casper since the young man was 18 years old.
"I believe [McIntire's] story fits very well for the police," he told BW in a phone conversation Feb. 20, "because they don't want my story to be true, which is that these two got in an altercation, [McIntire] wanted in the house, and he acted like a maniac. Mike went to get his gun and started shooting—the guy's breaking his windows out. Mike shoots out at him, hits the car and the house across the street, and the guy leaves. The cops come back and see him waving the gun and shoot him.
"That's what I believe. Something along those lines, and they don't like that story, because it kind of makes them look bad a little bit, instead of maybe talking to [Casper] first."
Sadness, frustration and even anger hung heavy over the Feb. 23 memorial. More than a few mourners had their own theories on what might have happened to their friend, but the one thing they all had in common was a deep sorrow.
"I've been crying for three or four days... hard," said Burns in an earlier conversation. "He was such a lovely, lovely young man."
One by one, tearful family and friends stood next to the memorial skateboards, wreath and photograph of Casper. A montage of images was projected on a far wall, chronicling his 26 years: photographs of him as a baby; as a boy at beaches and county fairs; playing make-believe in an oversized cowboy hat and boots; celebrating Christmases and Halloweens; and multiple pictures of Casper aboard his beloved skateboard.
As one image dissolved into another, "Godspeed" by the Dixie Chicks was played: "Oh my love will fly to you each night on angel's wings / Godspeed / Sweet dreams."
A few days after first speaking with BW, Burns stood at the front of the memorial service for Casper, who had lived with Burns' family for four years.
"We talked all the time. And we usually talked about God, girls and love. There wasn't ever a conversation that the two of us had that didn't end with us saying 'I love you' to one another," said Burns, who also read letters from his two children—a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old—saying how much they missed Casper.
Before he could read through the letters, Burns also dissolved into tears and was unable to finish his words.