Iowa Gun Battle: Four Wounded, One Killed, Confusion, Bad Judgement, and Alcohol

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Iowa Gun Battle: Four Wounded, One Killed, Confusion, Bad Judgement, and Alcohol

U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)- On 30 May 2020, a gunfight ensued at Sunset Village Mobile Home Park in Hiawatha, Iowa. In the end, one person was dead, three others were wounded, and 25 shots had been fired. The gunfight happened at the intersection of Sunset Lane and Wright Drive, a little before high noon.

The trouble started when Selena Straka, who was living in the trailer park with her sister, her brother-in-law, and her boyfriend, Tyler Bell, told her sister she had been walking in the trailer park, alone, when she was attacked by two unknown men. The brother-in-law started looking for the attackers, but no police were called.

Selena called her boyfriend, Tyler Bell, and told him about the attack. Tyler was with his twin brother, Terrone Bell. Terrone Bell has a carry permit, which is required to legally carry a handgun in public in Iowa.

Tyler did not have a permit. Terrone had two handguns. The two brothers decided to travel to the trailer park. When they arrived, they parked on Sunset Lane. It was a fateful decision. The gunbattle would occur very close to where Terrone Bell’s car was parked. Terrone loaned Tyler one of his handguns, a 9mm Hi-point.

The twins talked to Selena’s brother-in-law about the attack. The brother-in-law returned home; the twins, Terrone and Tyler, decided to look for the attackers.

One of the twins was seen loading a handgun and tucking it into his waistband. The two started to walk through the trailer park, yelling words to the effect “they were gonna get somebody”. The combination of a visible gun with threatening shouts was to have deadly consequences.

Tyler reached his vehicle, parked at the residence he shared with Selena, and her sister and brother-in-law, at 76 Joanne Lane. He may have realized it was illegal for him to carry the pistol without a permit. He placed the 9mm Hi-Point in his vehicle.

The pair had been observed by a resident of the trailer park, Arnold Lusk. Lusk lived on the same street as Tyler. Lusk had observed one of the brothers carrying a gun.

Shortly after Tyler had placed the Hi-Point in his vehicle, Arnold Lusk was approached by Joshua Lathrop. From the investigative report filed by Jerry A. Vander Sanden, Linn County Attorney:

Shortly thereafter, Arnold Lusk, who also lived on Joanne Lane, was approached by Joshua Lathrop, a resident of the trailer park Lusk advised Lathrop he had seen subjects walking with guns through the trailer park and warned to be careful because one of the two had a gun. About that time, Lathrop yelled at Chris Mundy about guns being displayed in the trailer park. Mundy described Lathrop as “sh**faced” and “in the mood to fight”. 

About that time, Tyler and Terrone Bell began walking back down Wright Drive in the direction of where Terrone had parked his vehicle. Lathrop yelled at them demanding to know what they wanted and what they were looking for. Arnold Lusk again warned Lathrop to be careful because one of them had a gun. 

Terrone Bell continued walking and was confronted by Joshua Lathrop at the intersection of Sunset and Wright Drive. Several witnesses described an argument that ensued between the two lasting several minutes. 

During the argument, Lathrop was heard demanding to know why Terrone was in the trailer court, why he had a gun and demanding to see it. Bell responded by advising he didn’t need to show his weapon and that he had a legal permit to carry (which was later verified). The argument intensified as Lathrop demanded to know why Bell was in the trailer court insisting that he leave. Bell was heard advising Lathrop he had a legal permit to carry and was trying to leave but Lathrop was in his way. Bell’s car was parked on Sunset Lane behind Lathrop. Essentially, Lathrop was between Bell and his vehicle. A resident of the trailer park yelled at Lathrop to let Bell get to his car.

As the argument escalated, driven by a combative Lathrop, who was later determined to have a blood-alcohol level of .21, several other residents inserted themselves into the confrontation.

All of them were on Sunset Lane, where Terrone Bell’s car was parked. Sunset Lane runs East-West.

Yvonne Ramsey and her nephew, Truman Harris, exited their trailer to the West of the ongoing confrontation. Tyler’s car was parked in front of their trailer. Yvonne carried an aluminum baseball bat.

Truman considered Joshua Lathrop a friend. On hearing that Terrone might have a gun, Truman Harris accessed his .40 caliber Smith & Wesson and started to approach Lathrop from behind.

On the East, Chad Harris (no relation to Truman) also considered Joshua Lathrop a friend. When he heard a gun mentioned, he went into his trailer and came out with a 9mm Smith & Wesson. He then approached Terrone Bell from behind.

While this was happening, Terrone’s twin, Tyler, heard the commotion and ran to the aid of his brother.

About this time, Joshua Lathrop punched Terrone Bell hard in the face. The punch was so forceful it knocked Terrone backward.

At this point, witness accounts begin to show different views of the events.

All of the combatants were in place, essentially in an East to West line on Sunset Lane.

The furthest west was Truman Harris, armed with a .40 S&W. He was behind Joshua Lathrop. The investigative report does not mention if Truman Harris was tested for blood alcohol.

Lathrop was drunk and combative. Lathrop is upset that Terrone Bell may be armed. Lathrop has just punched Terrone Bell in the face, hard.

The next, to the east, was Terrone Bell, facing west at Lathrop. Terrone Bell has a concealed 9mm pistol. Behind Terrone is Chad Harris, who is armed with a 9mm pistol. Chad Harris was later determined to have an alcohol blood level of .162.

Tyler Bell approached the intersection, to the east of Chad Harris.

It is unclear who fired first. It may have been Terrone Bell who drew his 9mm, he stated, after he saw Truman Harris running at him with Truman’s .40 caliber pistol. It may have been Truman Harris, who claims he was shot at first.

Both of the twins were hit multiple times. Truman emptied his .40 caliber, which had 14 shots.

In the 911 call made by Arnold Lusk, which was recorded, a sequence of 14 shots are heard, then a lull of 29 seconds; then an additional 11 shots. It is possible there were some 9mm shots in the first 14 and some .40 caliber shots in the second 11. It could not be forensically determined.

Chad Harris was hit in the initial barrage and returned fire in the direction of Truman Harris. Terrone Bell fired in the direction of Joshua Lathrop and Truman Harris. Terrone Bell and Chad Harris fired a total of 11 rounds of 9mm.

Truman Harris said his leg was grazed by a bullet. He returned to his trailer and placed his .40 caliber pistol there. The bullet graze claim was not verified or dismissed in the investigative report.

Joshua Lathrop was hit in the heart and lungs by a bullet form Tyler Bell’s 9mm, and in the arm with a bullet from Truman Harris’ .40 caliber pistol.

Joshua Lathrop died at the scene.

Terrone Bell was hit multiple times in the chest, abdomen, arms, and legs. He was in the hospital for three weeks. Medical records did not show any alcohol or drugs in his system.

Tyler bell was hit four times. He was hit in the right shoulder, right hip, right elbow, and left hand. Medical records did not show any alcohol or drugs in his system.

Chad Harris was hit three times, in the right shoulder, the right buttocks, and the left thigh. Medical records show an alcohol level of .162, about twice the legal limit to drive in Iowa.

None of the bullets hitting the twins or Chad Harris were recovered.

A lengthy investigation was conducted by the Hiawatha Police Department, assisted by the Iowa State Patrol, the Cedar Rapids Police Department, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Linn County Sheriff’s department.

All armed survivors claimed they fired in self-defense.

Truman Harris’ Aunt, Yvonne Ramsey claimed, essentially, she heard or saw nothing. From the report:

Yvonne Ramsey, who had left her trailer with her nephew Truman Harris, claimed she did not witness anyone firing a gun. She further claimed she never saw her nephew, Truman Harris, with a gun and did not know him to own a gun. These claims seem dubious given her presence at the scene.

The investigation determined the instigator of the situation was Joshua Lathrop, who was killed.

Forensic evidence and witness accounts were inconclusive. They could not prove any other participant had not acted in self-defense.

One witness said she saw Lathrop reaching for Terrone’s pistol.

No charges were brought against the armed participants. All participants cooperated with the investigation. All considered themselves to be justified.

As in many Old West gunfights, the prosecutor ruled the shootings to be mutual combat.

The only person to be charged in the gun battle will be Tyler Bell, for carrying a gun in public, without a permit.

Several lessons stand out.

Report incidents to police. Do not roam about a community with a gun, shouting you are “gonna get someone”.

Being drunk and aggressive can get you killed. It is a bad idea to confront someone you think is armed, prevent them from leaving, and punch them in the face. Many people have been killed with one punch to the head. It is a potentially deadly assault.

Robert Heinlein once said, “an armed society is a polite society”.

The investigation was unable to confirm the attack reported by Selena Straka.

There are many more details, which can be read on a pdf file from the Linn County Attorney’s Office.


About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten

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Buck
Buck(@buck-cassidy)
8 months ago

Dang! You sure did happen in ioway? Did sound like ma peeps in harlan county kentuc. Ifin one don ser him wooman wid hym bruder daz surt xhhootin to ech udder

Docduracoat
Docduracoat(@glenhermanhotmail-com)
8 months ago

To Dean Weingarten, Excellent article. I would correct one error. While a punch to the head could be fatal, the courts in all 50 states consider a punch to be non lethal force. After all, there are literally tens of thousands of fistfights with head punches in the US every year and extremely few result in a death. You are not privileged to respond with deadly force to a non lethal force attack. The only exceptions are “disparity of force” and exceptional vulnerability. Disparity of force is either multiple attackers, Or a big man punching a tiny female. Vulnerability is… Read more »

RoyD
RoyD(@royd)
8 months ago

The basic, rock bottom problem is that our society has seen fit to give support to those who deserve none. Without that “support” they would dry up and blow away. Of course some would say “think of all the problems they will cause if we don’t provide for them.” You know what, if they cause problems you handle those problems. There really is something to be said about the survival of the fittest. Now if individuals on their own decide to “support” them out of their own pockets uncoerced by Govt then God speed. You know that’s the way it… Read more »

StLPro2A
StLPro2A(@stlpro2a)
8 months ago

Hmmm….woman, boyfriend, alcohol, trailer park, Hi-Point,….it’s gonna’ go all down hill from there…..

mlhtd51
mlhtd51(@tadpole278)
8 months ago

I was Taught if it has Tits or Tires, You’re gonna have Problems.

KDad
KDad(@kdad)
8 months ago

Does the term “Trailer Trash” come to mind ?

Watch um
Watch um(@hughl)
8 months ago

Crap like this is what gives Congress the desire to force restrictions or total ban on owning a firearm.

StLPro2A
StLPro2A(@stlpro2a)
8 months ago
Reply to  Watch um

That desire to ban/restrict already is in Libtards. Players like in this story merely provide the Useful Idiots to achieve their desire.

Beeroy
Beeroy(@beeroy)
8 months ago
Reply to  StLPro2A

You don’t see them calling for an outright ban on trailer parks though. That’s left up to local zoning boards.

RoyD
RoyD(@royd)
8 months ago
Reply to  Watch um

Your supposition couldn’t be more incorrect.

Levelhead
Levelhead(@shootist)
8 months ago

Stay away from stupid places, where stupid people, are doing stupid things. It is hard to justify 2A rights when morons like this bunch use it to allow them to own and carry guns. You can’t fix stupid. But look at the bright side, the human gene pool has been improved as a result of this incident.

Beobear
Beobear(@beobear)
8 months ago
Reply to  Levelhead

“It is hard to justify 2A rights when morons like this bunch use it to allow them to own and carry guns.” No it’s not. There will always be people who do stupid things. You know…..morons. Constitutionally guaranteed rights don’t, by their nature, require justification. The fact that you say that means you’ve fallen for the liberal lie. They want you to think that your rights require justification because then they have an argument for taking that right away. You need to do a reboot friend, your rights are guaranteed. From the Supreme Court 1943: West Virginia State Board of… Read more »

Beeroy
Beeroy(@beeroy)
8 months ago
Reply to  Beobear

Good luck. Sportsman’s Club Gun Owners (Fudds) believe hunting is a right but gun ownership should be a privilege doled out by the state.

pureamericana
pureamericana(@bluidevil)
8 months ago

Like the Greeks & the Trojans , the whole thing started because of a woman.

uncle dudley
uncle dudley(@rockhouse)
8 months ago

The first mistake I see is when the boyfriend and his brother decided to take the law into their hands by looking for the so called molester. If the girlfriend was so upset with what happened to her why didn’t she call the police? Was she molested or just hit own by some unknown person? Boyfriend has a conceal and carry license, not a badge, he should have known better. The drunk guy should have stayed indoors and minded his own business and he would still be alive. The whole story was when idiots met and some had guns, as… Read more »

hippybiker
hippybiker(@hippy-biker)
8 months ago

Ok. Well try again. “Instant Jerk. Just add Alcohol!”
Also the full Heinlein quote is…”An armed society is a polite society manners are good when one may have to backup their actions with their life.”
From “Beyond This Horizon.” 1942

hippybiker
hippybiker(@hippy-biker)
8 months ago

“Instant Asshole. Just add Alcohol!”
Also. The full Heinlein quote is…” An armed society is a polite society manners are good when one may have to backup their actions with their life!” From “Beyond This Horizon.” 1942. It seems in this case that nobody had any manners.

RoyD
RoyD(@royd)
8 months ago

I see two main things. First, it’s not “hits” that count, it’s “good hit’s” that count. That is, proper rounds placed in places that are going to result in fast incapacitation.

The second thing is that there are some people you want to avoid dealing with especially if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

nrringlee
nrringlee(@nrringlee)
8 months ago
Reply to  RoyD

Correct on both counts. Intervene only to prevent imminent threat to life, otherwise call the law. It is obvious none of the folks involved were trained or go to the range. And third, if you are going to go back to the house to get a firearm make it an AR or an AK.Handguns are designed to give you immediate, concealable personal defense so you can work your way back to where you keep your real firepower.