Iowa City man charged in Ped Mall shooting want charges dismissed based on 'stand your ground' defense

Hearing is Friday in Johnson County District Court

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IOWA CITY — A man charged in the fatal August shooting on the Pedestrian Mall in Iowa City will ask a judge Friday to dismiss the charges against him, claiming under the “stand your ground” defense he was justified in using “reasonable force” to “repel deadly force.”

Lamar Wilson, 21, is charged in Johnson County District Court with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder, three counts of intimidation with a dangerous weapon and criminal gang participation. He is accused of shooting Kaleek Jones, 23, and two other men on Aug. 27. Jones later died as the result of a gunshot wound to his back and neck.

Police said the shooting was the result of a feud between two groups — one predominantly from Iowa City and the other from Cedar Rapids.

Wilson is accused of firing several rounds at people in close range near the walkway between the Sheraton Hotel, 210 S. Dubuque St., and Martini’s bar, 127 E. College St. Wilson was found with two firearms when he was apprehended a short distance from where the shooting took place. He had a valid permit to carry a gun.

During Friday’s case management hearing, the court likely will take up Wilson’s motion to dismiss and may take up his other motions for change of venue and to sever the gang participation charge.

John Bruzek, Wilson’s lawyer, argues in his motion filed last week that deadly force may be used “when defending against an imminent threat of deadly force, or the actual use of deadly force by an assailant” according to Iowa law.

Under “stand your ground” — which became law July 1 — Iowans are not required to retreat from a threat or call police before using deadly force.

The trial information and minutes of testimony show Wilson was lawfully in possession of a gun and had it concealed on him when he and others were attacked in the Ped Mall, Bruzek said in the motion. Members of the Cedar Rapids group, each armed, acted individually and together when they came to Iowa City, looking for a “war,” he added.

Once they got to the mall, the Cedar Rapids group “brandished multiple weapons in menacing and threatening manners, ultimately firing their weapons in the direction of the crowds — making good on the deadly gestures and threats made moments earlier,” Bruzek said.

Wilson was threatened with the multiple 9 mm handguns and attempted to “warn off the aggressors by asking them to repeatedly stop,” Bruzek said in the motion, adding the Cedar Rapids group refused and drew their guns.

“Lamar Wilson used deadly force — like force — to repel the deadly force he and others were confronted with,” Bruzek said.

Bruzek argues Wilson is entitled to immunity guaranteed by Iowa law because lawmakers determined civilians, in deadly force situations, when acting reasonably, should have the same qualified immunity as police officers. Wilson is asking the court to grant his “demand for immunity” and dismiss the charges because he didn’t commit a crime, Bruzek added.

Wilson’s other lawyer, Matt Shimanovsky, also filed a motion Wednesday, asking the court to move the trial out of Johnson County based on extensive pretrial publicity. He cites numerous newspaper and digital articles, television broadcasts, as well as “inflammatory” comments on social media that proclaim Wilson’s guilt or state disparaging comments about Wilson. Shimanovsky argues the press coverage and publicity has been so extensive that it prevents Wilson from having a fair and impartial jury in Johnson County.

Shimanovsky, in another motion, is asking the court to sever the gang participation charge because prosecutors allege this activity goes back to 2012, when Wilson was in jail or prison in another state, and isn’t part of this shooting incident.

Wilson remains in jail on a $1 million cash only bond and his trial is set for Nov. 7. If convicted of the murder charge, Wilson faces life in prison without parole.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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