A Webster County jury heard of the first police officers responding to a June 2020 shooting in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood on Thursday.
Michael J. Shivers, 56, of Eagle Grove, is on trial for two second degree murders and one for banned person possession of a firearm.
Lt. Don McLaren of the Fort Dodge Police Department was dispatched to the 900 block on 10th Avenue Southwest for a report of shots fired at around 4:45 a.m. on June 16, 2020. When he got there, the scene didn’t look like it had just moments before.
Witnesses testified that there was a large gathering of friends and relatives of the Shivers family celebrating the life of a loved one who had recently passed away.
“When I drove up for the first time … it was pretty quiet.” McLaren said .. âThere really weren’t a lot of people there. There is not much going on.”
After getting out of his patrol car, McLaren saw a victim lying in the middle of the street. The victim was Jamael Cox, 25, and he had been shot.
“I ran to him, checked him, checked his pulse.” McLaren testified. “Then I ran back to the patrol car to get my medical kit.”
When paramedics arrived a few moments later, McLaren – then a sergeant – was working to secure the crime scene and called FDPD investigators for help. His superior, Lt. Dennis Merka, took care of another scene a few blocks down.
Merka testified on Thursday afternoon that when he responded to the shooting, he witnessed a vehicle pulling into the other lane and crashing into a curb. At first he did not know that this vehicle had anything to do with the shooting, said the lieutenant.
The jury looked at Mernka’s dashcam and bodycam footage from that night and saw him approach the vehicle.
The driver was the second victim in the shootout – 47-year-old Tyrone Cunningham. Cunningham had been shot in his leg through a major artery. Merka said he knew it was a large artery because Cunningham had lost so much blood.
Merka called for support and paramedics and, along with another officer, pulled Cunningham out of the driver’s seat of the vehicle, laid him on the floor, and began resuscitation.
“My main focus was on emergency medical care” said Merka.
Thursday had started with the continued testimony of Michael Wells, the defendant’s son. Wells had testified on Wednesday that there was some uneasiness in the Shivers residence that morning, and his father told him that someone who “A gun drawn” A family member had been in the area.
Wells testified Thursday that Michael Shivers let him go down the block because he believed he had parked a suspicious car there. He said that after returning and talking to a few others, he would look for his uncle DarTonya “Doc” Shower.
“I knew he was sober and would probably try to defuse any kind of situation.” Wells said.
Then the first shot was fired.
Before taking cover, Wells testified, he saw that the first shot was fired by Michael Shivers, who was holding a rifle. He said the rifle was pointing east.
Wells admitted firing the handgun he had that night and said friend Darrell Jones shot a gun too. Wells said that prior to Michael Shivers’ first shot, he couldn’t remember hearing gunshots from the nearby park or down the street.
Wells also admitted to dumping the gun he later used in a shed at the back of the property because, as a felon, he was legally not allowed to own a firearm.
Iowa Assistant Attorney General Doug Hammerand asked Wells about his deception with investigators by not telling them everything he knew about the case.
“I didn’t want to get anyone into trouble” Wells said.
Under cross-examination, defense attorney Christopher Kragnes questioned Wells about the plea deal that Wells had made with prosecutors on gun charges.
Wells had previously been charged two second-degree murder charges related to this incident, but those charges were dropped in May. In July, he pleaded guilty of intimidation with a dangerous weapon and once of a felon in possession of a firearm, both Class D crimes.
“You also stated that you may have been incorrect in some of your earlier statements because you didn’t want to get anyone into trouble, is that correct?” asked Kragnes Wells. “When the state says it made no promises, which will be a condemnation line for you, do you mean you have to do a good job here today?”
Wells said he was here to testify the truth from his point of view.
Kragnes noted that Wells had testified that the first shot was from the Bushmaster AR-15 held by Michael Shivers.
Kragnes noted that during a testimony in July 2020, Wells did not say that Michael Shivers had a gun that night.
“Would you have ever fired your gun if your father hadn’t fired that gun?” Hammerand later asked Wells.
“No,” Wells replied.
While answering other questions from Kragnes, Wells admitted that he was worried about the defense attorney “He’s coming after him in court.”
“I don’t want my father to go away for the rest of his life” Wells said.
As a reluctant witness, Deion Shivers took the stand that afternoon. Deion Shivers is also the son of Michael Shivers. He testified that he did not want to be in court and that he had to be summoned by the public prosecutor.
Deion Shivers admitted bringing the Bushmaster AR-15 that evening, but said it wasn’t planned – he simply kept it in the trunk of the car he drove that night.
At some point he took the rifle out of the car.
“I’m sure I took it out and showed it to be proud”, said Deion Shivers.
He also testified that the rifle had no magazine, that the magazine was somewhere in the trunk, and that he had scattered ammunition around the vehicle.
At some point, Deion Shivers said, the people said: “Bring the f– down or go in.”
Hammerand asked him what he was thinking at first.
“A fight,” said Deion Shivers. “A fist fight.”
Instead there was “a whole bunch of ponies.” Deion Shivers said he froze, took cover, then ran into the house to process what had happened. When he was inside people tried to wash their hands, he said, possibly to remove any remains of the gunshot.
Deion Shivers testified that he saw his father hold the rifle during the shooting but did not know how he got it.
The judges also heard from Iowa State Patrol Trooper Mark Anderson, who helped edit and photograph the crime scene to create an accurate and true-to-scale 3D digital model of the crime scene.
Anderson testified that there were about 30 to 40 posters at the crime scene indicating that the cartridge cases were used up.
“Can you tell us which one came first?” asked Kragnes.
“No,” Anderson replied.
The last witness the jury heard from Thursday was Michael Tate, a criminalist and firearms expert at the State Crime Lab in Des Moines. Tate testified that when he examined the spent cartridge cases and the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, he found that many of the markings on the cartridge cases matched the barrel of the rifle.
Follow Kelby Wingert on Twitter @KelbyWingert for live coverage.