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Prosecutor: No evidence 2 killed at Taboo club were targeted
County attorney refutes assertions from families over how case was handled
Updated with video 5/26/23
CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County’s top prosecutor says there was no evidence to show that Timothy Rush targeted his girlfriend and another man last year when he fatally shot them in the now-defunct Taboo Nightclub and Lounge, as the victims’ families asserted earlier this week during Rush’s sentencing.
The investigation showed Rush fired a 9 mm handgun “indiscriminately into a crowd of people after Dimione Walker (also in the club April 10, 2022) executed Michael Valentine moments earlier,” sending the large crowd into a “frenzy” as clubgoers tried to get out of the downtown bar, Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks told The Gazette.
“That is manslaughter — that is what the evidence supported and that was the reason for the plea agreement,” Maybanks said. “We didn’t have evidence to support this was targeted.”
Family members of victim Nicole Owens, during sentencing, said they believed it was no “coincidence” that Owens, 35, and Marvin Cox, 31, both of Cedar Rapids, were fatally shot because Owens, who had a daughter with Rush, was attempting to leave him and Cox was romantically interested in her.
Rush, originally charged with two counts of second-degree murder, pleaded in March to two counts of involuntary manslaughter, five counts of reckless use of a firearm causing bodily injury, and one count each of intimidation with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon.
According to a criminal complaint and plea, Rush also shot Alazia Cotton and Makayla Stokes, causing them serious injuries, and Traniece Worley, Denise Triplett and Richard Nicksion, who suffered bodily injuries.
A judge sentenced him Monday to 30 years in prison, in accordance with a plea agreement. He also was ordered to pay $150,000 each in restitution to the heirs or estates of Owens and Cox.
“Our heart goes out to the families of the victims and we acknowledge their pain and loss, Maybanks said. “According to the Cedar Rapids Police Department, family members of Nicole Owens were initially talked to and there was no evidence to support that Mr. Rush targeted her. The evidence showed she was the unfortunate victim of his reckless impulse. This was a difficult and tragic case that never should have happened.”
Maybanks said Rush was apparently a part-time security employee for the club and he carried a firearm, which he wasn’t allowed to have because he has previous state and federal felony convictions.
Video of shooting
When Walker shot Valentine, Rush was on the other side of the club in the corner. The surveillance video from inside the club shows Rush “dropped down” and started “recklessly” shooting into the crowd. Rush was shooting toward the gunfire as a reaction to Walker, Maybanks said.
There was no evidence that Rush and Walker knew each other or were working in concert that night, or that Rush had any specific intent to kill, he added.
A jury in November 2022 convicted Walker, of Coralville, of first-degree murder, going armed with intent and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to life in prison.
“This wasn’t well thought out,” Maybanks said. “That’s the risk of putting someone in a position like this (to enforce security) without the proper training. It’s still baffling that so many people with guns, many of whom were prohibited, were allowed into this close space where alcohol was being served and security was minimal.”
Owens’ family also alleged at the hearing the investigation was lacking because police investigators didn’t talk to all of the family members — including three of Owens’ sisters who were at the club — and “systemic issues” that hinder justice for Black people.
“We absolutely disagree with any assertion that if the victims in this case were of a different race that the result would be any different,” Maybanks said. “Our office has a history of standing up on behalf of all victims and race is never a factor in the evaluation of the evidence and reaching a disposition.”
Family members were told about the plea agreement before it was made public, Maybanks said. He or others in his office talked to family members or returned their calls throughout out the case, he said.
Cedar Rapids police investigators told Maybanks they initially talked to the family after the shooting. If family members had information about a possible motive — like Rush being jealous of Owens and Cox — they should have come forward at the time.
“We can’t look into something we don’t know,” he said. “But we didn’t have evidence to support that.”
He said that Assistant Linn County Attorney Mike Harris, who prosecuted the case, made the “best decision possible for the victims and the community under these facts, and we support his decision.”
Maybanks said this case, along with others, demonstrates the need in Iowa for a reckless homicide charge that would fall between second-degree murder (a 50 year-sentence) and involuntary manslaughter (five years).
“There is room in the middle for a charge that would have more adequately held Rush responsible, but we are bound by the statutes,” Maybanks said.
Maybanks, as a member of the legislative committee for the Iowa County Attorneys Association, said he plans to propose for the next legislative session a new Class B charge of reckless homicide, or third-degree murder, punishable by up to 25 years in prison. This would be comparable to vehicular homicide by intoxication.
He also would like to see lawmakers decide if mandatory minimum terms are appropriate either as the standard for all reckless homicides or when aggravating factors are involved — such as when a dangerous weapon is used or failure to contact authorities to render medical assistance.
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