Four Wounded, One Killed, Confusion, Bad Judgement, and Alcohol
Iowa Gun Battle: Four wounded, one killed, confusion, poor judgment, and alcohol
USA –- (AmmoLand.com) – On May 30, 2020, there was a shooting at Sunset Village Mobile Home Park in Hiawatha, Iowa. In the end, one person was dead, three others were wounded and 25 shots were fired. The shooting took place just before noon at the intersection of Sunset Lane and Wright Drive.
The problems started when Selena Straka, who lived at the trailer park with her sister, brother-in-law, and boyfriend Tyler Bell, told her sister that she was walking alone at the trailer park when she was attacked by two unknown men. The brother-in-law looked for the attackers, but no police were called.
Selena called her friend Tyler Bell and told him about the attack. Tyler was with his twin brother Terrone Bell. Terrone Bell has the permit required to legally carry a pistol in public in Iowa.
Tyler didn’t have permission. Terrone had two handguns. The two brothers decided to go to the trailer park. When they got there, they parked on Sunset Lane. It was a fateful decision. The exchange of fire would take place very close to where Terrone Bell’s car was parked. Terrone lent Tyler one of his handguns, a 9mm hi-point.
The twins spoke to Selena’s brother-in-law about the attack. The brother-in-law returned home; The twins Terrone and Tyler decided to look for the attackers.
One of the twins loaded a gun and slipped it into his waistband. The two were walking through the trailer park and shouting words saying they were going to get someone. The combination of a visible weapon with threatening shouts should have lethal consequences.
Tyler reached his vehicle, which was parked in the residence he had shared with Selena and her sister and brother-in-law at 76 Joanne Lane. He may have realized that it was illegal for him to carry the gun without permission. He placed the 9mm Hi-Point in his vehicle.
The couple had been watched by a resident of the trailer, Arnold Lusk. Lusk lived on the same street as Tyler. Lusk had seen one of the brothers carrying a gun.
Shortly after Tyler put the hi-point in his vehicle, Joshua Lathrop approached Arnold Lusk. From the investigation report by Jerry A. Vander Sanden, Linn District Attorney:
Shortly thereafter, Arnold Lusk, who also lived on Joanne Lane, was approached by Joshua Lathrop, a resident of the trailer. Lusk told Lathrop that he saw subjects walking through the trailer park with guns and warned to be careful because one of the two had a gun. Around this time Lathrop yelled at Chris Mundy that guns were on display in the trailer park. Mundy described Lathrop as “sh ** faced” and “in the mood to fight”.
At about this time, Tyler and Terrone Bell were walking down Wright Drive in the direction Terrone had parked his vehicle. Lathrop yelled at them, wanting to know what they wanted and what they were looking for. Arnold Lusk warned Lathrop again to be careful as one of them had a gun.
Terrone Bell went on and was confronted by Joshua Lathrop at the intersection of Sunset and Wright Drive. Several witnesses described an argument that lasted several minutes between the two.
During the argument, Lathrop was asked why Terrone was in the trailer court, why he had a gun, and wanted to see it. Bell responded by stating that he did not need to show his weapon and that he had legal permission to carry it (which was later verified). The argument deepened when Lathrop asked why Bell insisted in the trailer court that he leave. Bell was heard telling Lathrop that he had legal permission to wear and was about to leave, but Lathrop was in his way. Bell’s car was on Sunset Lane behind Lathrop. Essentially, Lathrop was between Bell and his vehicle. A resident of the trailer called Lathrop to take Bell to his car.
As the dispute escalated, fueled by a combative Lathrop who later had blood alcohol levels of 0.21, several other residents joined the confrontation.
Everyone was in Sunset Lane, where Terrone Bell’s car was parked. Sunset Lane runs east to west.
Yvonne Ramsey and her nephew Truman Harris left their trailer west of the ongoing confrontation. Tyler’s car was parked in front of her trailer. Yvonne was carrying an aluminum baseball bat.
Truman considered Joshua Lathrop a friend. Upon hearing that Terrone might have a gun, Truman Harris accessed his .40 caliber Smith & Wesson and approached Lathrop from behind.
In the east, Chad Harris (unrelated to Truman) considered Joshua Lathrop a friend as well. Hearing a gun mention, he went into his trailer and came out with a 9mm Smith & Wesson. Then he approached Terrone Bell from behind.
While this was happening, Terrone’s twin Tyler heard the commotion and ran to his brother’s aid.
It was around this time that Joshua Lathrop hit Terrone Bell hard in the face. The blow was so severe that Terrone was repelled.
From this point onwards, testimonies show different views of the events.
All combatants were essentially in an east-west line on Sunset Lane.
The furthest west was Truman Harris, armed with a .40 S&W. He was behind Joshua Lathrop. The investigation report doesn’t mention whether Truman Harris was tested for blood alcohol.
Lathrop was drunk and combative. Lathrop is upset that Terrone Bell may be armed. Lathrop just punched Terrone Bell hard in the face.
The closest to the east was Terrone Bell, facing west at Lathrop. Terrone Bell has a hidden 9mm pistol. Behind Terrone is Chad Harris, who is armed with a 9mm pistol. Chad Harris was later determined to have a blood alcohol level of 0.162.
Tyler Bell approaches the intersection east of Chad Harris.
It is unclear who shot first. It could have been Terrone Bell who drew his 9mm, he explained after seeing Truman Harris run at him with Truman’s .40 caliber pistol. It could have been Truman Harris who claims he was shot first.
Both twins were hit multiple times. Truman empties his .40 caliber, which had 14 shots.
In the recorded emergency call from Arnold Lusk, a sequence of 14 shots can be heard, followed by a pause of 29 seconds; then another 11 shots. It is possible that the first 14 9mm exposures and the second 11 had approximately 40mm exposures. It could not be forensically determined.
Chad Harris was hit in the first barrage and returned fire in the direction of Truman Harris. Terrone Bell shot at Joshua Lathrop and Truman Harris. Terrone Bell and Chad Harris fired a total of 11 9 mm cartridges.
Truman Harris said his leg was hit by a bullet. He returned to his trailer and placed his .40 caliber pistol there. The Bullet Graze claim was not verified or dismissed in the investigation report.
Joshua Lathrop was hit in the heart and lungs by a bullet from Tyler Bell’s 9mm bullet and in the arm with a bullet from Truman Harris’ .40 caliber pistol.
Joshua Lathrop died on the scene.
Terrone Bell was hit multiple times in the chest, stomach, arms and legs. He was in the hospital for three weeks. Medical records showed no alcohol or drugs in his system.
Tyler Bell was hit four times. He was hit in the right shoulder, right hip, right elbow, and left hand. Medical records showed no alcohol or drugs in his system.
Chad Harris was hit three times in the right shoulder, right buttock, and left thigh. Medical records show an alcohol content of 0.162, which is about twice the legal limit for driving in Iowa.
None of the bullets that hit the twins or Chad Harris were recovered.
A lengthy investigation was conducted by the Hiawatha Police Department, backed by the Iowa State Patrol, Cedar Rapids Police Department, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Linn County Sheriff’s Department.
All armed survivors said they shot in self-defense.
Truman Harris’ aunt, Yumanne Ramsey, essentially claimed that she had heard or seen nothing. From the report:
Yvonne Ramsey, who had left her trailer with her nephew Truman Harris, claimed she hadn’t seen anyone fire a gun. She further claimed that she had never seen her nephew Truman Harris with a gun and did not know he should have a gun. These allegations seem dubious given their presence at the scene.
The investigation found that the instigator of the situation was Joshua Lathrop, who was killed.
Forensic evidence and testimony were inconclusive. They couldn’t prove that another participant had not acted in self-defense.
One witness said she saw Lathrop reach for Terrone’s pistol.
No charges were brought against the armed participants. All participants collaborated in the investigation. Everyone thought they were justified.
As in many shootings in the old west, the prosecutor ruled that the shootings were a two-way battle.
The only person charged in the firefight is Tyler Bell, who carries a gun in public without permission.
Several lessons stand out.
Report incidents to the police. Don’t go through a community with a gun shouting “get somebody”.
Being drunk and aggressive can kill you. It is a bad idea to confront someone you believe is armed, prevent them from leaving, and slap them in the face. Many people were killed with a blow to the head. It’s a potentially fatal attack.
Robert Heinlein once said: “An armed society is a polite society”.
The investigation could not confirm the attack reported by Selena Straka.
There are many more details that can be found in a Linn County Attorney’s PDF file.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten was a peace officer, a military officer, served on the University of Wisconsin’s pistol team for four years, and was first certified as a firearms safety instructor in 1973. He taught the concealed carry course in Arizona for fifteen years until the Constitution’s goal of carry was achieved. He holds degrees in meteorology and mining engineering and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in research, development, testing and evaluation for the Army.