CEDAR RAPIDS — A federal judge ruled Tuesday that two men will remain in jail and one will be released on electronic monitoring pending their trial on drug and firearm charges in connection with the fatal shooting of Dylan Plotz last year.
An investigator testified Tuesday about the marijuana deal turned robbery that ended in Plotz’s death, but he said authorities don’t know who fired a 20-guage shotgun that killed the 20-year-old man on Feb. 1, 2017.
Linn County Sheriff Sgt. Yon Abel said Plotz, Dillon Beener, 21, Kordell Jones, 19, all of Cedar Rapids — and a juvenile, who was driving and hasn’t been charged — traveled from Cedar Rapids to the home of Chase Zerba, 20, in rural Coggon, where they planned to rob him of a half-pound of marijuana.
Plotz went armed with a .40-caliber pistol, Abel said.
Evidence of the drug deal was found in text messages between Beener and Zerba, Abel said.
Zerba also texted his friend, Tyler Clemens, 23, asking him another friend, Cameron Klouda, 21, to get to his house before Plotz and friends arrived, in case something went wrong.
Abel said Clemens and Zerba decided they should take a shotgun from the house, which Clemens loaded and carried to a minivan, where they made the drug deal.
Beener, who was with Plotz and others in the van outside Zerba’s home, got out and talked to the others in the van, Abel said. They discussed price. Beener then went back to Plotz and Jones, and all three went to the van.
When Zerba got to the van, Plotz pointed his gun at Zerba, Abel said. Zerba then yelled “Pull it up,” and Clemens raised the shotgun and it discharged. But investigators can’t say Clemens pulled the trigger. Clemens told police he thought Klouda pulled the trigger, which also hasn’t been determined, Abel testified.
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During this time, Klouda, armed with a hunting knife, threw the knife in the direction of Plotz, but Plotz didn’t have any knife wounds, Abel said.
Abel said after authorities received a 911 call regarding a possible shooting, they found Plotz dead on the ground with a shotgun wound to the face.
Beener, Jones and Zerba were arrested at Zerba’s home, and Klouda was found in the van nearby, Abel testified.
Authorities didn’t find Clemens until later. He had gone home, showered and changed clothes and then left. His parents helped him evade law enforcement, but he was later found at a hotel.
U.S. District Magistrate C.J. Williams ruled the evidence was strong against Zerba and Clemens, including the text messages regarding the drug deal and the two admitting the decision to take a shotgun to the deal.
There is evidence Klouda also was involved in the drug deal, Williams said, but there’s less evidence on his involvement with the gun.
Williams said he doesn’t have all the evidence, but it seemed “far-fetched” that the shotgun went from Clemens to Klouda within a split second of it being fired, as investigators described. Klouda would have had to drop his knife and grab the gun.
It’s also vague about how and when Klouda threw the knife, before or after Plotz was shot, Williams concluded.
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Williams ruled Klouda, charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, would be released on electronic monitoring and home detention, pending trial Sept. 17.
Zerba and Clemens, charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and using, carrying, brandishing, and discharging a firearm during a drug trafficking crime and being drug users in possession of the gun, will both remain in jail pending trial, Williams ruled.
Detention was based on Zerba’s lengthy criminal history of possessing and distributing drugs and his numerous violations while on probation.
Williams said Clemens didn’t have a criminal history, but he was involved with the shotgun and already tried to evade authorities and his family members, who he would live with if released, helped him.
Williams previously ruled the other two charged in this crime, Beener and Jones, would remain in jail pending trial.
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