Tyler Rambo, 20, dressed in a yellow button-down shirt and blue tie, wheeled himself to the witness stand Monday morning .
He told the judge and jury in a Kootenai County courtroom that he fired his gun into the air in self -defense after getting into a fight with a group on the Fourth of July 2019.
It is the second week of Rambo’s trial for two shootings at City Park in downtown Coeur d’Alene.
Rambo is accused of shooting at one man, Jawaun Anderson, while the two were in a fist fight, and assaulting Anderson’s then girlfriend, Jazmin Smith, who was also involved in the fight. Rambo ran from the initial confrontation but was quickly chased by Coeur d’Alene police officers to nearby basketball courts where he was tased before he allegedly fired at police and officers returned fire. Rambo was shot 14 times by police, leading to the amputation of both his legs at the hip.
Rambo’s trial began last week in front of Judge Cynthia Meyer. Prosecutors Rebecca Perez and Molly Nivison rested their case Thursday and defense attorney Richard Baughman began calling witnesses Monday morning.
Rambo told the court he chose to testify because he “felt things needed to be said in their entire order and in truth.”
Baughman first asked Rambo about a fight that took place about a week before the Fourth of July. Rambo said he attended a party with friends and stayed for less than an hour before he walked outside to find Anderson, whom he had met earlier that night, and a few other men fighting his friend.
Rambo got involved in what he said was an attempt to help his friend, but quickly turned into him being beaten up by multiple people.
“I was getting stomped on everywhere from my head to my legs,” Rambo said.
Rambo said he feared for his life, but someone screamed something and everyone stopped hitting him. Rambo said he and his friends left the party immediately after and Rambo did not talk to Anderson between the fight and the Fourth of July.
A second witness, Ryen Giles-Smith, who attended the party with Rambo, told the court a similar story on Monday.
On the Fourth of July, Rambo told the court he went to downtown Coeur d’Alene with his mother, Nicole Ellis, stepfather and three sisters.
Rambo told the court he was carrying his loaded .357 revolver that he inherited from his grandmother and a baggie of ammunition he had grabbed from the gun safe that morning. Carrying the weapon was “just kind of as a precaution,” Rambo said.
The family walked around downtown for a bit before Rambo said he and his sister, Deja Jones, 9, went off on their own.
After watching part of the fireworks show, Rambo was carrying Jones on his shoulders as they headed back toward downtown when a girl pushed them, causing Rambo and his sister to fall over, he said.
Jones told the court that “a girl came up and pushed us over.” Jones said she fell, and people come up to ask if she was OK before Rambo called their mother, who came to pick her up.
Ellis told the court a similar story, saying her son was upset after dropping Jones off with her.
Rambo said he then went to confront the girl who pushed him, someone he later learned was a girl named Bella with whom he previously had messaged on Facebook .
When asked if he recognized Bella, whom he said he had never met in person, on the Fourth of July, Rambo said he did not.
Rambo never found Bella but instead ran into Anderson in the parking lot area. Anderson was “just staring daggers” at him, Rambo said.
Anderson immediately squared up and raised his hands, but Rambo admitted he delivered the first punch.
During the fight Rambo said he quickly went to the ground where he was “profusely stomped on” by multiple people.
“My head was bouncing off the concrete,” Rambo said. “I thought I was going to die.”
So Rambo pulled out his gun and fired it.
“I aimed it in the direction of the sky and pulled the trigger,” Rambo said.
Bystander Mandy Coon saw the fight occur while on vacation in Coeur d’Alene from her Utah home. Coon had just finished watching the fireworks with her husband, and other family members including five children, when she heard an argument begin nearby.
Coon told the jury she saw the fight where one man was on the ground.
“I couldn’t see (Rambo) because there were people attacking him,” she testified. “We saw him put a gun up in the air and shoot.”
Coon’s sister-in-law, Emilie Call, told the court she saw a group of about four people arguing before two men start throwing punches. One man ended up on the ground and was getting punched by multiple people, Call said.
“I just thought ‘they are going to kill him,’” Call said.
Call said she didn’t see the specifics of the gunshot, but did see the flash. Both Call and Coon said they then ran from the scene. Neither could explain specific logistics of the fight, but all said their impression was Rambo was being attacked .
The group acknowledged they had seen media coverage of the shooting in the following days.
Witness Neil Moore drove to Coeur d’Alene with his family from their Mead home and watched the fireworks show from the bed of his pickup truck. He was throwing the family’s garbage away when he saw the fight from about 10 feet away.
“There was somebody getting beat up pretty good,” Moore said.
Moore got closer, thinking he might intervene, when he said he heard someone yell gun then saw the muzzle flash. Moore said he couldn’t give specifics on the fight.
After firing the gun, Rambo said he was then able to get onto his feet where he struggled over the gun with Anderson, who was telling him not to shoot. Rambo told Anderson he wasn’t going to shoot him, Rambo said in court, which is similar to Anderson’s testimony .
Rambo told the court his finger was on the trigger as they fought over the gun, but later clarified his finger was in the trigger guard, but not on the trigger.
Rambo said he didn’t want to shoot anyone and was just trying to stop the fight by firing in the air.
“I don’t want to murder anybody in self-defense, that’s not something I want to do,” Rambo said.
Rambo is expected to testify again Tuesday as the defense continues to call witnesses. The trial is scheduled to last through the end of the week.
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