Trial starts for man accused of shooting another with Tec-9 assault pistol last year

Prosecutors say Breen acted willfully, without cause incident near Rumors bar

James Breen
James Breen

James Breen shot another man three times with an assault weapon intentionally, willfully and without cause outside of Rumors Bar and Grill last year, Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said in his opening statement Monday.

Breen, 27, shot Cory Forbes, 28, both of Cedar Rapids, with a Tec-9, 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistol twice in the lower abdomen area and once in the thigh outside the bar after Breen started arguing with Forbes' cousin, Sean Hiepler, over some car keys, Vander Sanden said. Breen was out drinking with Forbes and Hiepler that night, but Breen became angry when he couldn't get the keys and insisted they all "take it" outside.

Vander Sanden said once they were outside, Breen pulled out the Tec-9 from his waistband and pointed it at Hiepler. Forbes then lunged at Breen but Breen fired three times at Forbes after landing on top of him. Hiepler finally was able to pull Breen off Forbes and started punching him and yelling at him.

Breen is charged with attempted murder, willful injury causing serious injury, going armed with intent and carrying a dangerous weapon. The bench or non-jury trial started this morning before 6th Judicial District Judge Ian Thornhill. The trial is expected to last three days. If convicted, Breen faces more than 50 years in prison.

Victoria Cole, Breen's attorney, didn't give an opening statement. She will reserve her opening until the defense starts its case.

Vander Sanden said Breen's weapon, which includes an extended 30-round clip, was recovered by police with 26 rounds left in the clip. Officers at the scene also recovered three empty shell casings and a surgeon removed three bullets from Forbes' body which were turned over to investigators after his surgery.

Dr. Keri Nowell, a surgeon with PCI Medical Pavilion, testified Forbes' injuries were life-threatening. Forbes had damage to his small bowel and colon. Most of the damage was to the blood supply that goes to the bowels and colon. Nowell had to remove two feet of the small bowel and resection it. She also had to remove 6 to 8 inches of his colon.

Nowell said Forbes would have died without surgery. He had two gunshot wound to his lower abdomen and one to his thigh. He lost a large amount of blood and had to have transfusions. Forbes also had significant nerve damage, which could be permanent. He can't urinate on his own, has no sexual function and is incontinent.

Cedar Rapids Police Sgt. Michelle Omar testified when she arrived at Rumors that night Breen was laying in the street with a male and female holding him down. The two people identified Breen as the shooter.

Omar said Breen was intoxicated and had abrasions on his face but he was able to walk on his own when she cuffed him and put him in her police vehicle. Breen told her he blacked out and didn't know what was going on. He then said he had been "jumped."

Omar said Breen volunteered those statements and then she read him his rights but he said he didn't understand. She attempted to explain those rights in another way but he again said he didn't understand, so she didn't question him. He was then taken to the hospital.

At the hospital, Breen became "volatile" at times, Omar said. He was angry because the police wouldn't let his dog in the room. His dog wasn't at the hospital. Omar said Breen was intoxicated but she didn't know to what extent. He smelled of alcohol and slurred his words but she hadn't conducted a field sobriety test on him.

The Tec-9, which is now legal in many states, including Iowa, was included in the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004 and has not been renewed. A variant of the Tec-9, which has a magazine that is longer than the pistol grip, was one of four guns used in the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.

The trial continues 9 a.m. Tuesday.