Investigation clears Zimmerman in fatal shooting

Hagadone News Network | October 23, 2020 1:00 AM

CHALLIS — An investigation of a fatal shooting incident involving Bonners Ferry Police Chief Brian Zimmerman showed he was instrumental in protecting a campground of friends and family members against an agitated Russell Liddell, who smelled of alcohol, according to a report released by investigators.

Zimmerman and the group were on their sixth day of an eight-day utility terrain vehicle trip. The UTV trek involved more than 750 miles traveled. The expedition involved camping in tents or staying in hotels for seven nights.

On Aug. 1, the group traveled from Challis to Tin Cup Campground. To get from Challis to Tin Cup Campground, the group traveled to Custer’s town, up the Yankee Fork River drainage to the campground.

According to the report, at 10:15 p.m., a blue Dodge Ram 2500 pickup truck bearing Idaho license plate 1A P706T pulled into the campground.

The pickup pulled past the main camp and up to a circular turn around, approximately 60-yards to the southwest of the main group. On the far southwest portion of the circle turnaround, a tent belonging to Ted and Terali Stonehocker.

Both Ted and Terali were inside their tent when the vehicle pulled into the circle turnaround. The pickup drove within feet of the tent before trying to back up. The headlights shined directly into Ted and Terali’s tent.

According to witnesses, the pickup tried to back up for some time before Roberta Zimmerman approached the driver. Roberta stated she went over initially to see if the driver needed help backing up since it was dark.

Roberta spoke with Liddell. He told her they were in his camping spot and asked where they were from. Roberta stated she told Russell they were from northern Idaho.

Roberta walked back to the rest of the group by the campfire and explained how her interaction with Liddell had gone.

Ted reported Liddell was very upset and many members of the group overheard Liddell make a comment saying, “All you (profanity) Californians coming up here with your God damn fancy toys.”

Liddell reportedly told the man to leave, or he would get his gun. The man walked back toward his tent, and Liddell reportedly backed the pickup far enough down the road that it could turn around and circle back. According to the report, Liddell’s pickup stopped with its headlights shining directly at the man’s tent.

Meanwhile, Chief Zimmerman, having heard about Roberta and Liddell’s interaction, Chief Zimmerman had gone to his UTV and retrieved his .40 caliber Glock model-22 and concealed it in his short’s pocket.

Zimmerman was not aware of the conversation Ted had with Liddell. Zimmerman, Tim Green, and Fred Nystrom walked toward the Dodge pickup to see if there was a problem with the driver.

Zimmerman, Nystrom, and Green reported that Liddell stumbled and nearly fell when the male got out of the truck. All three said Liddell showed signs of physical impairment.

Liddell opened the driver’s side back passenger door and began searching for something in his truck; he eventually stepped out of the vehicle and stumbled out, showing signs of intoxication according to witness reports.

All three men heard the sound of a slide of a semi-automatic pistol being racked; Zimmerman reported when he heard the racking of the gun, he removed his gun from his pocket and held it alongside his leg. Liddell began turning counter-clockwise toward Zimmerman, Nystrom, and Green.

According to reports, “While turning, Liddell fired two shots. Zimmerman, having already removed his pistol from his pocket, fired back at Liddell.”

Zimmerman believed he had fired five rounds at Liddell, and after shots were fired, Zimmerman quickly secured Liddell’s firearm. Chris Yount came and secured both Liddell and Zimmerman’s guns.

Roberta Zimmerman, a registered nurse and Jennifer Green, a former paramedic, rushed in to check Liddell’s vital signs and could not find a pulse.

Following the shooting, Tim Green drove to a nearby ranch to contact dispatch and request emergency services to the incident’s location. Custer County Deputy Pumphrey and ISP trooper Demcak arrived on the scene at 1:44 a.m.