Join Date: March 21, 2005
Location: SW Iowa
GLENWOOD, Iowa - Tim Fullmer's career as a police officer was on the line as a grand jury convened Thursday. The jury must decide whether the Council Bluffs SWAT team member was justified in shooting and killing a man while executing a search warrant in December.
Meanwhile, investigators and prosecutors have given little public attention to Chris Leber, another Bluffs officer who figured in the events that prompted the raid.
Leber is an 18-year veteran of the force who lost his gun to a drug informant 39 hours before the shooting, according to police reports. The informant sold or traded the gun. The search for the gun led the SWAT team to the home of Brett Lynn Pace.
After shooting Pace, Fullmer was placed on paid administrative leave. He then was given special training duty pending the grand jury's decision.
As for Leber, law enforcement officials have refused to discuss him or the theft of his gun. He has remained on regular duty, including his work as a Council Bluffs police liaison to the Omaha office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The seven-member Mills County grand jury that will decide whether to indict Fullmer was called by Mills County Attorney Marci Prier. Iowa is unlike Nebraska in that a grand jury investigation is permitted but not required after a shooting by police; in Nebraska, a grand jury must be called.
The jury is meeting in secret in the Mills County Courthouse. To indict, five jurors must agree.
Pace's relatives said the prosecutor planned to present testimony from Kitty Carlberg, Pace's sister; Sheila Haase, who witnessed the shooting; Bob Henderson, special agent for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations; and an expert in SWAT operations.
The law enforcement investigation that ended in Pace's death began at least three weeks before the fatal shooting and involved Leber and the police informant, James Vierkandt.
During a meeting Dec. 10 with Leber and an ATF agent, Vierkandt agreed to help gather evidence of alleged guns-for-drug deals involving Pace, say court documents.
Also during that meeting, Vierkandt acknowledged that he had been using methamphetamine for 14 years and that he sometimes traded guns for the drug, the documents say.
Vierkandt went to Pace's house two miles southeast of Glenwood on Dec. 23, according to court documents. Vierkandt gave Pace $200 in ATF funds to pay for a previous gun transaction and received 1.5 grams of meth, according to the records.
Four days later, Vierkandt met again with Leber plus another ATF special agent, Clay Nolte. The trio met at a location described in police reports only "as somewhere off the Interstate 29 exit in Mills County."
During the meeting, for reasons unexplained in court papers or interviews, Leber and Nolte stepped out of their unmarked police car. They left Vierkandt inside, alone.
In the car was Leber's Council Bluffs-issued weapon, a Glock Model 22 .40-caliber handgun, serial number DXZ-981, according to police reports.
The meeting ended soon after the agents returned to the car. Vierkandt drove away in his own vehicle. Leber and the ATF agent left in theirs.
Leber soon realized that his handgun was gone. In a report filed with the Council Bluffs police, Leber said his Glock was stolen around 3 p.m. Dec. 27. "Vierkandt had been in the police vehicle for a short time without a supervising agent being present," Leber wrote.
Vierkandt went from his meeting with the officers to Pace's house. He arrived between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., said Scott Fisher, a 41-year-old Hastings, Iowa, man who was there.
From the house, Fisher said, he saw Vierkandt and Pace at an outdoor target range. They fired at least one shot. Then Vierkandt and Pace returned to the house, where Fisher saw Vierkandt carry a Glock handgun into a bedroom.
When the two men emerged after 10 minutes, Vierkandt was holding another gun - a black, long-barreled .22-caliber pistol, said Fisher, who assumed that the men had swapped guns.
As Vierkandt was leaving the house, he told Pace that he would return that night to collect something else, Fisher said.
In court papers describing the theft of his gun, Leber said he "contacted Vierkandt a short time later and Vierkandt admitted to taking the firearm from the police cruiser and giving it to the methamphetamine manufacturer."
Several officers soon went to Vierkandt's home in Silver City, Iowa, about 10 miles from Pace's house. At 5:30 p.m. on the day of the alleged theft, Vierkandt's mother, Lynda Gray, looked out her window from across the street and saw three police cars at her son's house.
After about 15 minutes, officers put her handcuffed son into a car. She said the officers took nothing else from the house.
"Jim just looked really embarrassed," she said.
Vierkandt's mother went immediately to the Mills County Jail in Glenwood to deliver her son's prescription medications. While there, she heard an officer yelling.
"This officer was mad," Gray said. "He kept saying things to Jim like, 'It wasn't supposed to go down like this. Now you've put my job on the line.' That he (the officer) is going to be in big trouble because it's his gun."
Gray said she also heard officers say to Vierkandt that "Jim was supposed to deliver money to Pace the next day" as part of an undercover operation.
About 8 p.m., Vierkandt was taken to the Pottawattamie County Jail in Council Bluffs.
Federal marshals moved him the next morning to the Polk County Jail in Des Moines to face three federal firearms and drug charges in connection with the theft of Leber's gun.
That afternoon - Dec. 28, a day after Leber's gun was stolen - the Southwest Iowa Narcotics Enforcement Task Force informed the Mills County sheriff that it had obtained a warrant to search Pace's house. The lead agency in the task force: Council Bluffs police. The search was to occur early the next morning.
Around 5 a.m. Dec. 29, Sheriff Mack Taylor and his top deputy, Sgt. Bruce Paulsen, attended a briefing at the drug task force headquarters in Council Bluffs. Bluffs police, the Iowa State Patrol, the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement and the Iowa Fire Marshal's Division all sent representatives. Omaha's police helicopter was to provide air surveillance.
By 6 a.m., about two dozen officers surrounded the Pace property.
Three SWAT team members, including Fullmer, entered the house around 6:15 a.m. Within five or six seconds, Pace had been shot.
Pace was taken to a Council Bluffs hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
That day, detectives found and seized two dozen pistols, shotguns and rifles from two bedrooms and the attic in Pace's house. No weapons were found in the room near the shooting. Three pounds of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and a small quantity of meth also were seized.
And in one of the bedrooms was a Glock handgun, serial number DXZ-981. Leber's gun.
I'll bet a signed one with anyone of you That at 20 yards I can out shoot you with my Bow...hehe
I be The Hood~RobbyHood