December 29, 2009 in City

Suspect in CdA shootings says he felt threatened

By The Spokesman-Review

A young businessman facing possible attempted murder charges after a chaotic confrontation in downtown Coeur d’Alene told police he felt threatened when he opened fire on a group of men looking for a fight.

“I did what I was trained,” referring to his concealed weapons permit, Adam M. Johnson told police, according to court documents filed Monday. “I felt threatened, and I didn’t feel that there was any other way out of it.”

But authorities investigating the early Sunday shooting in the 200 block of Sherman Avenue that left two Moses Lake men with gunshot wounds are skeptical.

They’re recommending that Johnson, 25, be charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery, concluding that the gunfire preceded a beating that Johnson later suffered at the hands of the group.

Johnson, the founder of a Coeur d’Alene-based telecommunications company and a member of the Post Falls Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, remained in Kootenai County Jail on $500,000 bond after appearing in District Court via video Monday.

He’ll be arraigned on the charges, which include increased penalties because a weapon was used, within two weeks. Johnson could face up to 30 years in prison.

His criminal history, which includes a 2006 drunken driving conviction and a dismissed charge of carrying a concealed weapon while intoxicated, was a factor in the bond amount approved by Judge Penny Friedlander.

Meanwhile, shooting victim Brandon J. Burgess, 25, of Moses Lake, was improving at a Seattle hospital, where he underwent surgery to remove a bullet from his stomach.

He was off a ventilator, alert and talking at Harborview Medical Center, said his brother, Jordan Burgess.

Also injured was Bradley J. Phillips, 25, who was shot below the left knee cap and treated and released at Kootenai Medical Center.

The men were in Coeur d’Alene for Christmas to visit the Burgesses’ mother, who went to the bars with them that night and witnessed the shooting.

Jordan Burgess, 21, said Johnson pulled a gun on the group after Johnson and Brandon Burgess pushed each other. They reportedly had argued earlier.

Johnson told police he was “attacked and he defended himself,” according to a police report.

“Adam felt like that guy was giving him an ultimatum by coming towards him, that he needed to pull the trigger,” according to a police report.

“Adam said he yelled stop twice and then ‘squeezed.’ ”

But the victims and their friends have a different recollection. They insist they only attacked after being fired upon, Jordan Burgess said in a phone interview from Harborview.

“He did not get jumped,” Burgess said of Johnson. “If anybody was acting in self-defense, it was the eight guys we had with us.”

Seth Gerber said Johnson was standing alone near Third Street and Sherman Avenue when Gerber and his friends, including the Burgesses, rounded the corner. They recognized him from an argument earlier that night at the Underground bar.

Gerber said Johnson had been “talking trash” ; others said Gerber had bumped into Johnson, then argued with him, according to police reports.

When the men saw each other again just before the 12:44 a.m. shooting, Johnson said something about the Shore Lounge being slow, Gerber told police.

Phillips, who was shot below the knee, told police Johnson pulled the gun, a .40-caliber, after one of the Burgess brothers said “if you want to do something then let’s just settle it right now,” according to a police report.

Jordan Burgess said Johnson fired the gun once before he was tackled and punched several times by the group.

“Adam acted like after he shot once he was going to put the gun away because he put his arm down,” Burgess said.

But Johnson fired the gun several more times as he lay on his stomach and the men tried to overpower him, according to police reports.

One of those men, 23-year-old Gary Kenneth Ganiere, of Moses Lake, told police he grabbed the gun from Johnson’s hands and threw it on the roof of Tito Macaroni’s restaurant, where police found it.

Johnson told police he always carried the pistol in the front of his waist with no holster, according to police reports.

“I told Adam that witnesses said there was no physical altercation between he and the guy he shot, that Adam had just pulled his gun,” according to a report by Coeur d’Alene police Detective C. Miller.

“Adams said he knows he felt threatened. He had a feeling that something was wrong.”

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