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Trial begins for Tyler Rambo, accused of 2019 Fourth of July shooting in Coeur d’Alene

UPDATED: Mon., March 1, 2021

Nicole Ellis, right, mother of Tyler Rambo who was shot by Coeur d'Alene Police in 2019 marches during a Black Lives Matter protest and march on August 30, 2020, in Spokane.  (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Nicole Ellis, right, mother of Tyler Rambo who was shot by Coeur d'Alene Police in 2019 marches during a Black Lives Matter protest and march on August 30, 2020, in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The Fourth of July of 2019 was just like any other Independence Day celebration, with thousands of people gathered at City Park in Coeur d’Alene to watch fireworks until two shootings caused all that to change, said Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Perez to a Kootenai County courtroom on Monday.

Perez told a jury that Tyler Rambo, then 18, went to the park carrying a double-action pistol fully loaded with six bullets and an additional 13 bullets in his pocket.

There, Rambo ran into Jawaun Anderson, a man he had “a little bit of an altercation” with at a Spokane party the week prior, Perez said.But “as far as Jawaun was aware, on July 4 the air had cleared,” she said.

Right after the fireworks finished, Anderson and his girlfriend, Jazmin Smith, saw Rambo walking in the park and got his attention. At the same time, Anderson was distracted by a man telling him he was littering, Perez said. When Anderson turned around to Rambo, he got punched in the face, Perez said.

“And the fight was on, ladies and gentleman,” Perez told the court.

The two men fought and Rambo quickly pulled out a gun and attempted to fire it at Anderson, who pushed the gun away from his face, the prosecutor said.

A bystander, Sam Henderson, saw the fight, heard the shot and decided to intervene, pulling out his own concealed gun and yelling something to the effect of “Freeze!,” the prosecutor said.

That’s when Anderson and Smith, both thinking they had been shot, dropped to the ground and Rambo ran, the prosecutor said.

Rambo’s attorney tells a different story of the evening, claiming Rambo was jumped by Anderson and that Rambo only fired his gun directly into the air.

The aftermath of the initial confrontation led to a second one between police and Rambo, who the prosecutor says fired at police after being shocked with a Taser. Rambo’s attorney says the gun went off due to the Taser shock.

Ultimately, Rambo was shot multiple times by police, resulting in the amputations of both legs, a fact not mentioned during the first day of Rambo’s Monday trial.

Rambo, now 21, is on trial for charges of attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault, three counts of assault or battery against law enforcement personnel and five counts of battery against law enforcement personnel.

In November 2019, Rambo filed a tort claim seeking more than $9 million in damages alleging that Coeur d’Alene city officials failed to adequately train or supervise the officers who shot him.

After jury selection earlier in the day, Perez and Rambo’s defense attorney Richard Baughman made opening arguments.

Baughman tells a different story of what led up to the confrontation between Rambo and Anderson.

A few weeks prior to the Fourth of July, Rambo went to a party that he didn’t know much about in Spokane with a friend, Baughman said. When they arrived, Anderson quickly made it clear he didn’t like Rambo’s friend, and eventually Anderson and “his buddies” beat up the friend, he said.

“They all ganged up on him, beat him up, kicked him,” Baughman said. “Tyler (Rambo) saw what was going on and tried to help his buddy out.”

The result of the fight, Baughman told the court, was Rambo getting “pummeled.”

The assault by Anderson and “his group of homies” was the only interaction the two men ever had, Baughman said.

On July 4 after the fireworks, Rambo was walking alone in the park and “up pops Jawaun and his crew of homies,” Baughman said.

“Jawaun and his buddies saw another opportunity to beat the living tar out of somebody,” he said.

Rambo was on the ground in the fetal position with people kicking him in the head, ribs and stomach, Baughman said. That’s when Rambo pulled out his gun and fired one shot into the air, he said.

The crowd participating in the beating fled, Baughman said, leaving Anderson and Rambo struggling over the gun. That’s when the bystander intervened, he said.

Rambo ran off, both the defense and prosecution agree. The prosecution said Rambo fled to a group of nearby port-a-potties, where he made eye contact with Coeur d’Alene police Officer Kyle Cannon, who chased Rambo toward the park’s basketball courts.

A group of officers continued the chase, eventually resulting in eight officers congregated near the basketball court in a semicircle facing Rambo, who was pacing with the gun, the prosecution said.

The officers yelled “over and over” again for Rambo to drop the gun, the prosecutor said.

Baughman said Rambo had not only been kicked in the head, but had just fired his gun, leaving his ears ringing, head pounding and multiple officers yelling.

Rambo put his hands in the air and told the police to “hang on a second,” Baughman said. That’s when Officer Casey Ziegler pulled out a Taser and shot Rambo with it, both the prosecution and defense say.

The prosecution argued Rambo still could move his arms while being shocked, and as he fell, leveled his gun and fired at three nearby officers. The defense said Rambo was stiff as a board, falling backward, and when he reached a 45-degree angle the gun went off.

The two shootings were investigated separately, with the Coeur d’Alene Police Department exploring the initial attempted shooting of Anderson and the Idaho State Police looking into the alleged shooting at police.

The prosecution said they plan to show body camera footage from the seven officers who turned on their cameras .

The defense pointed to Anderson as an untrustworthy witness.

Since the incident, Anderson, now 24, has been arrested multiple times in Washington and Idaho.

On July 18, 2019, Anderson was cited for multiple driving infractions in Coeur d’Alene. In September 2019, he was charged with harassment in Spokane County. He pleaded guilty in February 2020.

In March 2020, he was charged with possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia in Kootenai County. He pleaded guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia in May 2020; the other charge was dropped as part of a plea deal.

In November, he was charged with drug possession, possession of a controlled substance and driving without a license in Kootenai County.

He pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana and driving without a license on Feb. 22.

In December, Anderson was charged with accessory to robbery, grand theft and destruction of evidence in Kootenai County, all felonies. He pleaded guilty to two of the charges Feb. 16 after the evidence-destruction charge was dismissed.

Baughman argued the prosecution will heavily rely on Anderson’s version of events, while ignoring more than a handful of other witness accounts.

The trial is set to resume early Tuesday and is scheduled to take two weeks.

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