POCATELLO — A Pocatello man accused of threatening two people before exchanging gunfire with Pocatello police officers — two of whom suffered significant injuries — has been bound over to district court.
Todd Vernon Brewer, 45, waived his preliminary hearing involving two charges of battery on an officer. But Brewer moved forward with a hearing regarding two charges of aggravated assault because his defense attorney argued no clear threat was made against the two victims who said they were threatened.
After hearing testimony from the victims and a portion of a 911 call made by one of the victims, Magistrate Judge Carol Tippi Jarman determined there was sufficient probable cause to send those charges to the district court.
‘He was drinking for, I’d say, about seven or eight hours’
Thursday’s hearing involved alleged threats Brewer made to the two people he was with before the officer-involved shooting.
Defense attorney John Andrew claimed that despite Brewer’s displaying two separate firearms — a pistol and an AR-15 — he never pointed either weapon at the victims or made explicit threats, and both aggravated assault charges should be dismissed.
Bannock County Assistant Chief Prosecuting Attorney JaNiece Price countered, saying that Brewer’s actions — being both heavily intoxicated and medicated — created a “well-founded” fear in both victims.
The judge agreed with Price.
Jarman determined that holding the handgun presented a clear threat in itself. Holding a rifle in the manner described by both victims — with his right hand on the grip — and racking the rifle took the threat even further.
According to the first victim, the incident began hours before the alleged threats and officer-involved shooting.
“Todd started to drink (earlier in the evening). Heavily,” the victim said. “A lot. More than usual.”
“He was drinking for, I’d say, about seven or eight hours,” the second victim later added, saying that throughout the night, they could not recall a time when Brewer did not have a beverage in his hand.
In addition to the alcohol, Brewer was taking medication for a mental illness from which he suffers, the first victim added. He was “overmedicated and drunk,” the victim said.
Both victims described their attempts to distance themselves from Brewer. The first left the home and returned later, while the second locked themself in a bedroom.
When the first victim returned, they were engaged in what they described as “mini confrontations” with Brewer for several hours.
Those confrontations intensified when Brewer began carrying a handgun.
The first victim eventually got the gun from Brewer and hid it in a guitar case. After multiple attempts to get the handgun back, the victim said Brewer pulled an AR-15 from underneath his bed.
“Then it got scary,” the victim said. “There was a look in his eyes — he didn’t even sound like himself. … I didn’t think that he was capable of going where it went — I didn’t think it was possible.”
Asked what their fear level was, on a scale of one to 10, the victim said, “I was at the top of the scale. I was cowering like a child. … I thought he would hurt me or himself.”
Once Brewer began “pacing” the home, holding a rifle in what the judge called a firing position, the second victim called 911. They then showed Brewer the phone to inform him that officers would soon be on the way.
While both victims acknowledged their limited experience with AR-type weapons, they described what they believed to be Brewer “cocking” the rifle.
The second victim returned to the bedroom and locked the door behind them.
Following testimony from both victims, the prosecution played a portion of the 911 call. In the recording, the second victim can be heard saying, “He’s going to kill me, he’s going to kill me, he’s going to kill me. Please help me. … I’m scared.”
The first victim can be heard arguing with Brewer.
Both victims battled emotions throughout their testimonies and quickly left the courtroom after the 911 recording began to play.
Brewer left the home after briefly arguing with the first victim, who locked the door behind him. The first victim then joined the second victim inside the locked bedroom.
Both described officers coming up the street toward the home with their guns drawn.
“I heard them say, ‘Drop the gun, drop the gun.’ Then I heard shots,” the second victim said.
When officers arrived, they gave Brewer commands to put his rifle down. He instead opened fire, hitting two officers.
Officers Demetrius Amos and Mackenzie Handel were both rushed to Portneuf Medical Center, where they underwent emergency surgeries. They have both since been discharged from the hospital to complete their recoveries from home.
Brewer was also shot during the exchange and had to be taken to the hospital. He was moved from the hospital to Bannock County Jail about three weeks later.
Because Brewer waived a preliminary hearing for charges related to that incident, those charges were automatically moved ahead to district court.
Thursday’s closing arguments and decision
In her closing arguments, Price stated that presenting a gun during an argument constituted a threat, adding that both victims described a well-founded fear for their safety.
Andrew countered, calling the incident an example of “bad things happen.” Both victims testified that they do not believe Brewer ever intended to shoot them but questioned the circumstances given his alcohol and narcotic consumption.
It was the judge’s determination that there is sufficient evidence for the existence of “well-founded fear.” She added that it was her court’s job to determine the worthiness of district court and a potential jury trial, not to determine guilt or innocence.
With her decision, Brewer will be scheduled to appear in district court on four felony charges — the two counts of battery on an officer that were not argued and the two counts of aggravated assault that were.
With amended charge documents, the Bannock County Prosecutor’s Office has stated its consideration for adding deadly weapon enhancements later.
Brewer could face up to 90 years in prison if he is found guilty of all counts.
A district court arraignment hearing is yet to be scheduled.