The past few years have been very difficult for Brooks Roberts, a 38-year-old man, and his family. Battling homelessness, disabilities, job losses, and eviction, their situation took a devastating turn when an encounter with law enforcement left Brooks paralyzed from the waist down.
The Roberts Family’s Struggles
The Roberts family found themselves among Idaho’s unhoused population, where approximately 2,000 people experienced homelessness in 2022.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, homelessness in the state has risen by 14.2% over the past 15 years.
In Idaho, the majority of unhoused individuals live outdoors or in vehicles.
For the Roberts family, life in an RV camper became their only option as they moved from one public land trailhead to another, trying to find a place to call home.
Law Enforcement Arrive
In May, the Roberts family was living in a national forest when they faced the U.S. Forest Service and various law enforcement agencies.
They attempted to arrest the family for camping on public land beyond the permitted duration, and the situation escalated quickly.
Brooks Roberts, armed with a .22 revolver, did not fire his weapon, as shown by police body camera footage.
However, officers responded with a barrage of gunfire, ultimately leaving Brooks paralyzed.
Idaho is an open carry state, and since the police officers had not identified themselves as such, Robert’s was within his rights to be holding a weapon.
In response to the shooting, lawyers representing Brooks Roberts filed a personal injury claim against the federal government, seeking $50 million in compensation for a lifetime’s worth of lost earnings due to his disability.
Ritchie Eppink, one of Roberts’ lawyers, stated, “Forest Service officers needlessly and recklessly shot Mr. Roberts repeatedly, causing him extreme suffering and permanent disability.”
While trying to survive and secure stable housing, the Robert’s family faced arrest warrants for camping violations, further complicating their situation.
“Shooting Those Most Vulnerable”
Homeless people across the country are grappling with similar issues as cities enforce camping bans, leading to arrests and fines that make daily life a constant struggle.
On the Robert’s case, the legal director of the National Homelessness Law Center, Eric Tars, said, “The extreme use of force used against Roberts by federal officers sends a clear message from the federal government that unhoused people are less deserving of their right to life.”
This event seems to be getting a wide range of responses from the public, with some sympathizing with Robert’s and others confused as to why he might be getting any money at all.
One social media user sympathized with Roberts and commented, “Shooting those most vulnerable. Congratulations. He was not hurting anyone.”
However, another user looked at the situation and said, “Homeless vagrant and sleazy lawyer = big payout.”
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / AkulininaOlga