An angry 73-year-old man was fatally shot in an Idaho campground incident in which he allegedly fired on a group of campers after being heard yelling at them for being in what he claimed was his campsite, and accusing them of coming from California.
The incident occurred August 1 but a report on what happened is only coming to light now, as Bay Area News Groups reports. The man, identified as Russell Liddell of Boise, reportedly confronted a group of 16 to 18 campers at 10:15 p.m. on the night of August 1, a Saturday, at the remote Tin Cup Campground in Idaho’s Salmon-Challis National Forest.
The police chief from the small town of Bonners Ferry in northern Idaho, Brian Zimmerman, was among the group of campers who observed Liddell approach the campsite in his pickup truck and idle there for several minutes — apparently menacingly. He then moved the vehicle about 60 yards away to an area where a separate couple was camping in a tent.
According to a report from a multi-agency task force investigating the incident, a woman from the first campsite went to ask Liddell if he was looking for someone, and he told her that they were in "his campsite." After she walked away, Liddell was reportedly heard saying, "All you fuckin' Californians coming up here with your goddamn fancy toys."
The report notes that when Zimmerman then went to confront Liddell, he observed Liddell "stumble" out of his truck and then go rummaging for what turned out to be a semi-automatic pistol in the backseat. This was after Liddell had a "hostile" exchange with the man in the tent at the second campsite.
Per the report, Zimmerman and two companions "heard the sound of a slide of a semi-automatic pistol being racked." Liddell then allegedly turned and fired two shots in their direction.
Zimmerman says he then pulled a .40-caliber handgun out of his shorts pocket and fired five shots, hitting Liddell at least once. Liddell fell to the ground and was pronounced dead.
A state trooper was fetched along with Custer County sheriff’s deputies who arrived at the scene a couple hours later, at 1:45 a.m.
The Custer County prosecutor’s office has reportedly not decided whether to file any criminal charges in the incident. The Bonners Ferry Police Department, in a town up at the tip of the northern panhandle of Idaho just across the border from Canada, said that Zimmerman acted in self-defense while off duty, and therefore he was not being placed on administrative leave.
Liddell is survived by a wife, four children, and eight grandchildren according to an obituary. After spending some of his teen years in Redondo Beach, California, Liddell developed a love for Idaho after attending the University of Idaho.
It remains unclear when or why Liddell came to the campground that night. According to a U.S. Forest Service listing for the Tin Cup Campground, it requires no reservations and there are no fees for camping there.
Photo: Everett McIntire