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Key witness admits he lied to police and in court in second day of Tyler Rambo trial

UPDATED: Tue., March 2, 2021

Tyler Rambo makes his way back into the courtroom on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
Tyler Rambo makes his way back into the courtroom on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

On the second day of accused Fourth of July shooter Tyler Rambo’s trial Tuesday, the man who was involved in a physical altercation with Rambo admitted he lied under oath and to police when called to testify.

Jawaun Anderson walked into the courtroom Tuesday morning wearing jeans and a pullover, with a portion of his neck tattoo peeking out from the collar.

Last week, the prosecution petitioned for Anderson to wear street clothing during his testimony, though Anderson is being held in Kootenai County Jail after pleading guilty to multiple felonies last month.

Rambo is accused of second-degree attempted murder for allegedly shooting at Anderson during an altercation at City Park in Coeur d’Alene on the Fourth of July in 2019. Rambo is also charged with aggravated assault of Anderson’s then-girlfriend, Jazmin Smith, who also testified Tuesday.

After the initial altercation, Rambo ran from police and allegedly shot at officers after being hit with a stun gun. He’s charged with multiple counts of assault or battery against law enforcement personnel. After Rambo’s gun went off, police opened fire on Rambo, shooting him more than 14 times, which resulted in the amputation of Rambo’s legs at the hip.

Rambo’s trial began Monday before Judge Cynthia Meyer and is expected to last two weeks.

On Tuesday, Anderson was one of seven witnesses called by prosecutors, including three Coeur d’Alene Police Officers.

As Anderson passed the defense’s table, Rambo adjusted himself in his wheelchair.

Anderson first met Rambo at a party at Anderson’s house about a week and a half before Independence Day. At the party, Anderson said he fought Rambo and then one of Rambo’s friends. Anderson indicated he had the upper hand in the fight.

This description of events is counter to what Richard Baughman, Rambo’s defense attorney, described during opening arguments Monday, saying Rambo’s friend was hit first by Anderson and his friends, and Rambo intervened.

On the Fourth of July, Anderson said he spent the entire day at City Park with Smith and a group of friends.

The group had been drinking. Anderson said he had some vodka in a Gatorade bottle, when asked in court Tuesday. At an earlier hearing, Anderson had said he had a cup of vodka and some lemonade, according to transcripts read by Baughman in court Tuesday.

He also admitted to smoking one to two blunts before leaving Spokane. A blunt is a marijuana cigarette approximately the size of a cigar.

After the fireworks, Anderson said he and Smith, along with one friend, were walking toward the Coeur d’Alene Resort from the park when he saw Rambo, said hi and nodded in greeting.

At the same time, Anderson said he heard someone yell his name, causing him to look away from Rambo.

When he turned back to Rambo, Anderson said he got punched in the face. Anderson and Smith began fighting with Rambo.

At some point, Anderson said Rambo pulled out a gun from his hoodie. By this point, Anderson said he was kneeling over Rambo, who was sitting on the ground looking up at him.

“He was on the ground and I was, like, kind of over him on my knees,” Anderson said.

That’s when the gun went off.

“I could see down the barrel of the gun; it was close,” Anderson said. “The bullet went past my face.”

After the gun went off, the two men stood and continued to fight over the gun, Anderson said.

“I was telling (Rambo) he needed to run away because the police were going to shoot him,” Anderson said.

Rambo said he wasn’t going to shoot Anderson, Anderson told the court.

That’s when Anderson said he heard someone, later identified as Sam Henderson, yell to freeze. That’s when Rambo ran away and Anderson hit the ground, he said.

Henderson, who also testified Tuesday, said he was at the park watching fireworks with family and friends when he heard a commotion and went to check it out. Henderson saw two men struggling over a gun and pulled out his own concealed weapon, then yelled at them to freeze, he told the court.

About five or six people in the group fighting scattered, along with some bystanders, Henderson said.

Anderson said that shortly after Henderson intervened, he ran away. Anderson ran into acquaintances, who let him charge his cell phone, which he used to call friends who came to pick him up.

After the incident, Anderson admitted he didn’t report what happened to police and didn’t speak to police until more than a week after the incident, when they contacted him.

“I was told I was being left out of it, so I thought I would be OK,” Anderson said without specifying who allegedly said that.

Upon cross-examination, the defense asked Anderson whether he had lied to police when he initially spoke to them. Anderson admitted to lying, but did not say what he lied about.

Anderson also admitted to lying under oath in a preliminary hearing in October 2019, but did not state what he lied about. When the prosecutor asked whether Anderson had lied in court about the incident on the Fourth of July, he said he had not.

The defense alleged that Anderson’s friends were involved in both the assault of Rambo at the party and on the Fourth of July, but Anderson denied anyone other than he and Smith were actively involved in the fight.

“We didn’t jump him,” Anderson said.

Both Anderson and Smith testified they did not kick Rambo in the head or see him get kicked in the head, like the defense argued happened during opening arguments.

Smith said she had been drinking on the Fourth and dozing off in the sun. The group went to watch the fireworks close to the steps at Independence Point, where Smith was perched on a flamingo floatie and eventually fell asleep.

She said Anderson woke her up after the fireworks finished and began leading her toward the resort as she walked with her eyes closed.

Smith said she wasn’t paying attention until Rambo hit Anderson.

“I saw Tyler start hitting on Jawaun,” Smith said.

Smith said she hit Rambo in return until Rambo’s back was up against something, and that’s when she said she saw the gun.

“I wasn’t aware he had a weapon until it was in my face,” Smith said.

Smith said the gun went off near her face; however, there was back-and-forth over whether she heard one or two gunshots. After that, she fell to the ground, eventually being helped by bystanders. Once Smith realized she wasn’t hurt, she said she got up and began to leave the area, then ran into two female acquaintances who gave her a ride home.

Throughout her testimony, Smith struggled to answer the questions asked of her by both prosecution and defense. At one point, the judge got involved, asking her to focus on the scope of the question.

Smith would often say, “I don’t know” or “I don’t recall” in response to questions. At one point, Smith said she tried to get out of testifying because of post-traumatic stress disorder she said she believes she has.

The defense repeatedly asked Smith how intoxicated she was.

Smith repeatedly said she was tipsy and not “blacked out,” and in previous testimony Smith said she was drunk. Smith said the alcohol did not impede her memory of the night.

After Smith testified, three Coeur d’Alene police officers were called to testify, with more officers set to be called when trial continues Wednesday.

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