SANDPOINT — A Bonner County Magistrate Court judge dismissed on Wednesday a felony firearms violation against a Priest River man who was accused of opening fire on two teenage anglers on the Priest River last fall.
Judge Justin Julian ruled there was no evidence to show that Leo Michael Inwood knew that he was firing on the teens or the moped they used to get to their fishing hole on Sept. 12, 2017. Moreover, there was no showing that Inwood acted with malice, a requisite element of the felony weapons discharge offense.
“The whole malice aspect does not exist,” said Julian.
However, Julian found there was sufficient evidence to charge Inwood with injuring another by discharging of an aimed firearm, a misdemeanor. Julian also found there was sufficient evidence to try Inwood on a felony count of evidence concealment for hiding a .357-caliber pistol and a 12-guage shotgun immediately after the shooting so they would not fall into the hands of investigators.
Inwood, who is free on $30,000 bail, is scheduled to be arraigned on the evidence concealment charge in 1st District Court on Monday.
Inwood, 42, invoked his right to remain silent during Wednesday’s hearing. However, his co-defendant, Eric Rampton Wood, took the stand during the hearing to testify on the condition that his testimony is not used against him.
Wood, 52, told the court that he had only just recently met Inwood while working on a relative’s log cabin overlooking the river. Wood said they had both been drinking when he spotted what appeared to be a box lid or sign that had blown into the brush. The object turned out to be the front of a Honda Elite scooter, which was facing the home from across the river.
“I took a couple of potshots at it,” testified Wood, adding that Inwood also took shots at the object.
Under cross-examination by Inwood’s defense counsel, Sandpoint attorney Bryce Powell asked Wood if he saw anybody standing near the object when he opened fire. “Absolutely not,” Wood answered.
The two 13-year-olds, one of whom was shot in the leg, also took the stand.
“All of a sudden gunshots started going off,” said the teen who escaped injury.
The teens said they hugged the riverbank until the shooting subsided and made for the Honda, unaware that it had been damaged by gunfire.
“I got shot in the leg,” the other teen testified as they rode off on the Honda. They ended up crashing because gunfire damaged the moped’s front wheel, but ultimately made it to safety.
Wood testified that Inwood gathered up the firearms and urged Wood to accompany him to a relative’s house. Wood testified that he declined to leave the scene and opted to await the presence of law enforcement.
Powell called the incident a unfortunate.
“But it was an accident,” he emphasized.
Bonner County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Shane Greenbank also appeared to recognize that malice was a missing ingredient, but argued that Inwood intended to hide evidence of the shooting. “Why else would you take the guns (from the scene)?” Greenbank said.
Although Julian admitted that witnesses who testify in jail garb and shackles don’t typically don’t cut the most credible figures. But Julian found that Wood’s testimony was credible.
“That is the case that we have today,” Julian said.
Greenbank sought to elevate a misdemeanor vandalism charge to the felony level because damages to the scooter exceeded $1,000, although Juilan ruled there was insufficient evidence to show that the vehicle was worth that much before being perforated by bullet holes.
Julian declined to find probable cause for the felony vandalism charge, but found there was cause to try Inwood on the weapon concealment charge. Julian said the incident was an uneasy cocktail of alcohol, reckless firearms use and poor decisions.