SANDPOINT — The shooting death of a Clagstone man last fall has been ruled a justifiable homicide by the Bonner County Prosecutor’s Office.
Joshua Matthew Cole, 39, was shot to death by Jimila Hall, 41, during a confrontation in the 100 block of Rebel Ridge Road on Oct. 12, 2018.
Sheriff’s officials said preliminary findings indicated Hall opened fire in self-defense, although Cole’s friends and family disputed that characterization and alleged there was a rush to judgment in the case based on Cole’s looks and background.
The prosecutor’s office, however, is affirming detectives’ preliminary determination that Hall was acting in self-defense.
“The facts of the case are not really in dispute,” Prosecutor Louis Marshall said in a Jan. 10 charging decision letter to homicide Det. Phil Stella.
Marshall said a review of the sheriff’s investigation determined that the fatal clash was precipitated by Cole’s “erratic” behavior.
Robert Johnson told investigators that he was driving on the southern Bonner County road when Cole dropped his pants, exposed himself and made an obscene hand gesture at his family, according to the prosecutor’s office. Cole pulled his pants back up and began chasing Johnson’s vehicle.
“Mr. Johnson was in fear for his life and his family’s safety and attempted to get away in the vehicle by backing it down the road away from Cole,” Marshall said in the letter.
Robert Johnson said Cole turned his focus on Hall and her mother, who heard the commotion outside and went to the driveway. Hall armed herself with a baseball bat and a pistol before leaving the home, indicating that Hall did not arm herself with in an intent to kill.
“This adds to her credibility that she had no intent to kill as it is unlikely she would have brought a bat with her. She simply would have grabbed the gun and come outside,” Marshall wrote.
According to Hall, a shirtless Cole came across a drainage ditch and directly at her with muscles flexed and fists clenched. She brought the bat and yelled at Cole to go away, but he continued his path toward her.
Hall’s mother, Theresa, picked up rocks and threw one in the direction of Cole to intervene on her daughter’s behalf. Cole then turned on 70-year-old, saying “I’m going to get you,” according to Marshall’s letter.
When Cole was 3-5 feet away, Jamila Hall fired a gunshot, hitting Cole in the chest and mortally wounding him. Hall then called 911 and attempted life-saving measures.
“This also supports Jimila’s credibility in that she attempted to save Mr. Cole’s life as well as calling 911 while he was still very much alive,” Marshall wrote.
Marshall acknowledge the case was difficult because Cole was unarmed during the confrontation, although he said Cole was also behaving extremely aggressively and very erratically. Also, Jimila Hall legally demonstrated that she had a firearm and refused to relent when he was told to back away.
“It is entirely reasonable to believe that Mr. Cole would not have stopped in the short distance he was from Ms. Hall and would have attacked her, possibly gaining access to the firearm,” Marshall said in the letter.
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.