County attorney says March 20 shooting justified under Iowa code

A Lee County deputy patrols the scene of a shooting March 20, in Fort Madison, while police conduct interviews at a home in the background. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – After more than a week of investigating a March 20 shooting in Fort Madison, Lee County Attorney Ross Braden said the county is now looking at its first Stand Your Ground case.

Braden said Tuesday morning he filed formal charges against Wade Lee Shaffer, 19, of Fort Madison, who is accused of shooting Zachariah Raines, 19, also of Fort Madison, during an altercation on the 20th in the 2600 block of Avenue I.

Shaffer was being held on suspicion of attempted murder and carrying weapons. But Braden said after investigating the incident, he decided to drop the attempted murder charge from the trial information citing Iowa Code 704.21 which outlines justifiable deadly force.

Additionally, Iowa code also allows for the person using deadly force to be wrong in their estimation of the danger or the force necessary as long as the belief of danger was reasonable. Iowa code also provides that no one has a duty to retreat from any place they are lawfully present.

“Today we filed the trial information, which is the formal charging documentation and we did not formally charge the attempted murder because Shaffer’s use of force is likely justified under Iowa law,” Braden said.

Braden said he did file charges for carrying weapons, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, and possession of ammunition by a prohibited person. The firearm and ammunition charges are class D felonies in Iowa. Carrying weapons is an aggravated misdemeanor.

Shaffer was the subject of a protective order and was not lawfully able to possess the weapon or the firearms.

Braden said Shaffer also does not have a permit to carry.

Class D felonies in Iowa are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $7,500 fine per conviction.

However, Braden said evidence shows that Shaffer retreated from the fight and Raines allegedly pursued him into a neighborhood yard where Shaffer pulled a gun and an apparent struggle ensued resulting in at least two shots being fired.

“Evidence shows that (Shaffer) produced a gun and thought that would be enough to deter Raines, but that didn’t seem to be the case. We believe he fired in self-defense and we believe there were at least two shots fired,” Braden said.

One of the shots struck Raines in the shoulder. He was taken to Fort Madison Community Hospital and then air-lifted to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for treatment where he was eventually released.

Braden said to this point the investigation has shown that Raines was not armed at the time of the altercation.

In 2017, Iowa adopted the legislation allowing law-abiding citizens to use deadly force in defense of themselves, their property or others on their own land and in public when they perceive they are in a dangerous situation.

Iowa code 704.2A outlines the Stand Your Ground defense as Justifiable Use of Deadly Force.

“For purposes of this chapter, a person is presumed to reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to avoid injury or risk to one’s life or safety or the life or safety of another in either of the following circumstances.

  • Unlawfully entering by force or stealth the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force, or has unlawfully entered by force or stealth and remains within the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force.
  • Unlawfully removing or is attempting to unlawfully remove another person against the other person’s will from the dwelling, place of business or employment, or occupied vehicle of the person using force.”

Braden said additional charges may be filed stemming from the incident and subsequent investigation.

Clarification: This article was updated at 6:07 p.m. Tuesday March 30 to reflect information from the Lee County Attorney’s office that Raines allegedly pursued Shaffer into a yard in the neighborhood. When Raines approached Shaffer, Shaffer produced a gun and at that point the altercation became physical.

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