The shooting death of former Spokane Empire football player Carl Sims may have stemmed from nothing more than angry words exchanged between strangers at a bar, according to charging documents presented in court Thursday.
Suspect Ricky Tanner, 25, appeared agitated as a prosecuting attorney laid out the series of alleged events, gathered from eyewitness accounts, that culminated in Sims’ shooting Sunday night. As the charging documents were read, he squirmed in his seat, twisting his hair between his fingers and speaking over the voice of his public defender.
Those documents offered new details – a seemingly unprovoked early Sunday morning shooting in downtown Spokane that left Sims hospitalized. He later died. Tanner, who has a history of gun-related violence that includes involvement in a gang-related drive-by shooting in 2015, is facing a charge of first-degree murder and sits in jail in lieu of a $1 million bond.
According to police, Sims and his girlfriend were drinking downtown Saturday night into Sunday morning at Lucky’s bar, 408 W. Sprague Ave. While at the bar, Sims’ girlfriend told police a man, later identified as Tanner, pushed Sims “so hard that he lost his balance.”
The woman said she, Sims and another friend left the bar, and once outside, Tanner confronted them again. She said they argued for a few minutes, during which Tanner told Sims he had a gun.
The three left, walking eastbound on the sidewalk toward Washington Street, Spokane Police officer Craig Wendt wrote in court documents. There was apparently a crowd of people arguing in a separate incident at the northwest corner of Sprague and Washington, so the three turned north along Washington, when they heard a gunshot.
“Sims told her that he had been shot,” police wrote. “Sims was hopping on one leg, and then fell to the ground.”
Sims, 31, was taken into Monterey Cafe, where his girlfriend attempted to provide medical aid to stop the bleeding from a wound in his leg. Paramedics arrived and transported Sims to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at about noon Sunday.
An autopsy performed by Spokane County Medical Examiner John Howard revealed Sims died from a gunshot wound to the back of the leg.
A witness of the shooting who was on the corner of Sprague and Washington said he heard the sound of a semi-automatic firearm being shot and then someone say “grab the shell casing.” He told police he picked up a single shell casing from the sidewalk where the incident occurred.
Police viewed surveillance video from Lucky’s and P.M. Jacoys, 402 W. Sprague Ave., and were able to determine that the same man who shoved Sims earlier in the evening and later shot him in the leg was Tanner, based on a sweatshirt he was wearing. During an interview with police, Tanner told them he had the same sweatshirt at home.
In watching the video, detectives noted the suspected shooter manipulating a handgun with his left hand. Tanner told police Monday evening he used his right hand for handwriting, but for “virtually all other tasks” used his left hand. He also told officers the gun he was adjusting in his waistband was a “paint ball gun.”
Judge Smith set Tanner’s bail at $1 million after the prosecuting attorney successfully argued the severity of the charges and Tanner’s criminal history. Tanner’s public defender reserved argument on bond, instead asking the judge to not set bail at an excessive amount.
As the judge finished his ruling, a group of four people in the first row reacted, with one young man, who was livestreaming the hearing on his phone, saying, “Man, I love you Ricky.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter