January 8, 2010 in City, Idaho
Charges dropped in CdA shooting
A man accused of shooting two men during a night of drinking in downtown Coeur d’Alene left jail Friday after a grand jury declined to indict him.
Adam M. Johnson, 25, said he shot Brandon R. Burgess and Bradley J. Phillips in self-defense after the men and their friends threatened him during an early-morning argument Dec. 27.
The men had argued at a bar hours earlier, and police said Johnson was attacked by the men only after he fired a gun at them.
A grand jury apparently disagreed and refused to indict Johnson, the CEO of a Coeur d’Alene-based telecommunications company. Charges of attempted murder and aggravated battery were dismissed Friday in Kootenai County District Court.
“The facts in the case, I think, pointed to self-defense, absolutely,” said public defender Anne Taylor. “We were developing a very good case.”
Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public, and witness testimony and evidence is confidential.
Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor Art Verharen, who conducted the two-and-a-half-day proceeding, declined comment.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Barry Black said he wished he knew what went into the decision.
“Are we disappointed? Sure,” Black said. “We felt that there probably was enough to go forward … otherwise, we wouldn’t have proceeded.”
Phillips, 25, told police Johnson pulled a .40-caliber handgun after one of Phillips’ friends said, “If you want to do something then let’s just settle it right now,” according to a police report.
Phillips was shot in the knee and Burgess, 25, was shot in the stomach when Johnson was tackled, according to police reports.
Police say Johnson fired the gun once at the men before they tackled him and punched him in the face repeatedly, causing heavy bruising. The first shot didn’t strike anyone.
Johnson, the founder of Convertec and a member of the Post Falls Chamber of Commerce board of directors, told police immediately after the shooting that he felt threatened by Burgess, Phillips and their friends, and feared for his life.
“Adam said as soon as he was jumped, he thought they were going to kill him,” according to the police report. “He stated that he tried to empty it (the clip) before he went to the ground because he knew that he would be killed.”
Johnson’s friends, rallied by Facebook postings and a group called “Free Adam Johnson,” packed the courtroom Friday.
“We know that Adam was in the right with this and he shouldn’t have been charged,” said Candace McEnespy. “This is going to make Adam stronger and better. I think everyone who knows him knows that.”
Johnson left Kootenai County Jail, where he was being held on $500,000 bail, shortly after the court hearing. He declined interviews.
Phillips and Burgess, who were in Coeur d’Alene for Christmas to visit Burgess’ mother, were not available for comment. Each has filed a civil claim against Johnson, seeking payment for medical expenses and other damages.
Phillips recovered at Kootenai Medical Center; Burgess underwent surgery at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and is recovering.
The men were in a group of about eight people drinking at downtown bars when they ran into Johnson at the Underground bar on Sherman.
One of the men said the group had been asked to leave the Torch bikini bar because Burgess’ mother, who witnessed the shooting, and a friend “were getting out of hand, possibly with the stage dancers,” according to the police report.
The group encountered Johnson again about 12:45 a.m. in the 200 block of Sherman Avenue.
Police estimated hundreds of people poured out the downtown bars at the sound of four or five gunshots.
One bullet hit a parked car, and one of the Moses Lake men told police he “freaked out” and threw Johnson’s gun on the roof of a nearby restaurant, according to police.
Johnson, who has a concealed weapons permit, told police he always carried the pistol in the front of his waist with no holster, according to police reports.
A judge based his $500,000 bond partly on his criminal record, which includes a drunken driving conviction and a dismissed charge of carrying a concealed weapon while intoxicated.
Taylor, Johnson’s public defender, said her client was “greatly relieved” at the dismissal.
“Being charged with this type of offense and being put in jail is a very, very frightening experience for anyone.”