James Breen testifies he doesn't remember shooting friend with assault weapon

Judge will likely render verdict in next few weeks

James Breen
James Breen

James Breen testified Wednesday that he was intoxicated and doesn't remember shooting the man he regards as a "brother" with his Tec-9 assault pistol.

Breen said it wasn't his intent to shoot his music "collaborator" and good friend Cory Forbes or to point the gun at Forbes' cousin Sean Hiepler. It was his habit to carry the Tec-9 pistol, fully loaded any time he left his home for self-protection and admitted to sticking it in his front waistband of his pants Nov. 18, 2012 when the three of them went out to Rumors Bar and Grill.

Breen said he had been mugged, robbed and "jumped" in the past, so six months before November 2012 he bought the gun from a neighbor. He had no knowledge of the assault gun but because of the past incidents he decided to arm himself with "whatever he could get a hold of." In fact, that was the first time he had pulled the trigger, he said.

Breen, 28, of Cedar Rapids, is charged with attempted murder, willful injury causing serious injury, going armed with intent and carrying weapons.  He is accused of shooting Forbes, 28, of Cedar Rapids, three times with a Tec-9, a 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistol, outside of Rumors Nov. 18, 2012. He first pointed the gun at Hiepler, 24, of Mount Vernon, and then he shot Forbes when Forbes tackled him, according to testimony.

Forbes was shot in the abdomen twice and once in the hip area, which caused permanent nerve damage to his bowels and colon, according to testimony.Forbes didn't testify.

The defense rested after Breen's testimony. This was a bench or non-jury trial, so 6th Judicial District Ian Thornhill will render his decision at a later date. The trial started Monday in Linn County District Court.

Breen said he and the two men didn't have any disagreements that night. They were all on good terms. He admitted to being intoxicated before they left his house. He drank two small bottles of rum. He described the bottles as being about five inches tall.

He said they briefly went to another bar before going to Rumors but he doesn't remember arriving at second bar. The next thing he recalls is sitting in Rumors, then singing loudly on stage and then he remembers being outside.

"I remembered feeling tense and kind of warm," Breen said.

Then, he was tackled and heard shots, Breen said. He got up and tried to run away but someone started hitting him. When his vision returned, there was a police officer. The next memory is being in the hospital and he was cuffed to a bed.

Breen said he then recalls seeing himself in a mirror in jail and then waking up in the "pink" room, which is the isolation area for inmates who are considered suicidal. He was told he had been there for 14 days.

Breen said he doesn't remember talking to a police officer after the shooting or his interviews with investigators at the police station.

Victoria Cole, Breen's attorney, asked if it was possible he or Forbes could have pulled the trigger.

Breen said it was possible.

On cross examination, Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden asked if he had the gun for protection and was carrying it with him, wouldn't he want to know how to operate the gun.

"You didn't know it had a safety?" Vander Sanden said.

Breen said he just needed to know how to pull the trigger.

"So, you claim you're walking around with a loaded gun, with a live round in the chamber, in your pants?" Vander Sanden said.

Breen again said he didn't know there was a safety. He didn't have to rack the slide on the gun because it was loaded and ready to fire.

Breen admitted that he didn't have a permit and didn't have any firearms training.

"Wasn't it a conscious and deliberated decision to bring the gun," Vander Sanden said.

Breen said he was taking it with him for protection - the only reason he had it.


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