Cheyenne man who shot attackers acquitted in your land case
A 21-year-old Cheyenne man, who was accused of shooting into a stranger’s Chevy truck from his driveway this spring, has been found not guilty of assault, after a jury acquitted him Wednesday.
Jason Lyle Jr. was driving home on the evening of April 29 along a network of dirt roads in northeastern Cheyenne when he passed another vehicle — at speed.
Suddenly three cars surrounded him. A white Toyota Tacoma with a front jack struck the back of Lyle’s black Mazda Miata minivan, shaving off its wing, the Cowboy State Daily said in an interview Friday.
Lyle’s father Jason Lyle Sr. also joined the interview.
The couple said the man driving the Tacoma fired at least five shots at “Junior” during the demolition derby chase on dirt country roads.
They are shooting at me
Frantically, Junior called his sister, Molly, and said he had been attacked from behind and was under fire, the affidavit for the case said.
Molly and her boyfriend were already on their way to Lyle’s house in a separate car after the three had gone out earlier that evening.
Junior asked his sister to find a gun in the house. She thought he was joking at first, but when the seriousness of his tone settled, she searched the house for a gun and couldn’t find it, she recalled crying during the trial.
Surveillance footage from the time shows Molly going out to retrieve a cellphone from the car in the driveway. She appears to answer the phone while casually standing in the driveway, then turns around and returns home about 6 seconds later.
Get the gun
Junior returned to his parents’ house on Four Mile Road, where he also lives. He parked his car, quickly got out and ran home, leaving the headlights on and the driver’s side door open.
His sister opened the door to rush him inside.
He retrieved his SKS rifle from the house and went back outside.
He said the Tacoma didn’t stay put, but a gray Chevy Silverado was still in his driveway and a Lexus Gx470 SUV was behind it.
Court documents filed three months later say the husband and wife in the Silverado claimed they did not know this was Junior’s home, and were concerned for the people inside the home given Junior’s driving pattern.
Surveillance footage at Lyles’ home shows the glow of headlights from the stranger’s truck and Junior running outside carrying a rifle, his shadow in the porch light ahead of him in the driveway.
Molly, barefoot and in a summer dress, came out from behind her brother and waved her arms as if she was facing the occupants of the truck.
“I told them to leave and they wouldn’t leave. I shot them. I disabled their car,” Junior recalled.
No one in the truck was injured.
Junior shot at the Silverado, causing the driver to accelerate out of the driveway and drive east on Four Mile Road. Bullets hit the radiator and wheel rim.
Junior returned home and came out without his gun. He, his sister, and his sister’s boyfriend then went into the field carrying flashlights and picked up items, the affidavit relates from additional surveillance footage of the incident.
Junior then put his car in the barn, closed the barn door and sat with his sister and her boyfriend in the driveway. The three can be seen shaking hands in the footage, according to the affidavit.
Meanwhile, the driver of the Chevy called 911.
Copper and spoiler
Investigators arrived at the scene.
Junior later rode with a Laramie County Sheriff’s Office deputy to the approximate area of the car chase to search for the missing spoiler and spent bullets. Explosives Detection K-9 Deputy Arik searched the area. Eric did not notice anything; There were no shell casings on the ground.
Junior said the deputy searched at Archer Road and Glencoe Drive, which the deputy was told at the time he was unsure if that was the right location.
Junior’s father, Lyle Senior, was on a business trip during the shooting. He said he went to the intersection of Cherry and Stuart roads to investigate as soon as he got home on May 1.
Five empty 9 mm shells and a black wing were found there.
Lyle Senior took photos and called the sheriff’s office. It took a while for a deputy to be sent there, he said, and the father was careful not to touch evidence while he waited.
“When they finally came, they found more copper than I did,” Lyle Senior said. He said the Tacoma was jacked high enough to shave off the spoiler and grind the footprint of its winch into the Mazda’s trunk without breaking the pickup’s taillights.
The judge later described the scar from the crane as “private crease damage,” the father said.
The Laramie County District Attorney’s Office charged Lyle Jr. with two counts of aggravated assault — one for each passenger in the truck he disabled with his rifle rounds. Aggravated assault is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
He told Cowboy State Daily that Lyle Jr. had never been charged with a felony before, and he dreaded the thought of being convicted of one. Besides spending a maximum of 20 years in prison (an unlikely sentence given his young age and lack of serious criminal history), a conviction would mean he would lose his gun and voting rights, as well as his right to vote. Sitting on juries and holding public office.
“I was very nervous,” Lyle Jr. said of that months-long trial.
The young man’s father described the trial, which lasted for several months, as “nerve-wracking.”
Stand your ground
But between the day the charges were dropped and August 3, some important evidence emerged.
The family hired Devon Petersen as a defense attorney, and they worked with a private investigator.
“Two independent witnesses — Crystal Odell and Eugene Sweeney — heard five to six gunshots that sounded like they were fired from a handgun” the night of the car chase, Petersen wrote in an Aug. 3 motion to dismiss the case on merit. Grounds for defense.
Petersen called attention to Lyle Jr.’s calls to his sister while he was under fire. He then pointed to three other eyewitnesses who came forward saying they saw several cars chasing young Lyle throughout the neighborhood.
“Jason’s vehicle sustained significant damage as a result of being chased and run off the roadway,” the motion says. “(He) was afraid for his life.”
The vehicles drove to Lyle Jr.’s property and blasted the house with their flashing lights, Petersen wrote.
The movement continues: “He showed them that he had a gun, but they didn’t leave yet.” “Finally, Jason Lyle, a very accurate shot with a rifle… fired two shots at the front of the front vehicle, not toward the cab. Only then did the vehicles leave Jason Lyle’s property.
The husband and wife who stopped in the Chevy did not have a gun, the document says, adding that Lyle did not confirm that those people were the ones who shot him.
No duty to retreat
Laramie County District Court Judge Stephen K. Sharp, a full-day hearing on Sept. 12 to hear arguments on the young Lyle’s motion to dismiss the case based on Wyoming’s “stand your ground” self-defense requirement.
The law provides that a person who is attacked in a place he lawfully occupies can respond with reasonable defensive force and has no duty to retreat.
Sharpe refused to dismiss the case early based on the “stand your ground” argument.
The case went to a jury trial on November 7 for two days.
Don’t call the cops here
He said one of the arguments the state made at trial was that Lyle Jr. simply did not call the police during the attack.
“They would say, ‘You never called the police.’” But none of them did (until later),” Lyle Jr. said, referring to the drivers who hit him.
The Tacoma driver reportedly called police as soon as he returned home. Lyle Senior said he came home and put his gun away, then called 911 and “complained about Junior driving.” “Then he said, ‘Oh by the way, I think he’s shooting at some cars over there.’”
At trial, the jury combed through video footage, including a four-part set from Lyle’s home surveillance system. She heard testimony, including from the man and woman who were in the Silverado, and from Molly.
Junior did not testify.
In his closing argument, Petersen emphasized Wyoming’s self-defense laws, calling for “reasonableness” — an idea the 12 jurors had to determine the limits of. The lawyer said his client did exactly what was necessary to end the threat to his home.
The jury deliberated for about an hour before declaring Junior not guilty.
“My client and his family were very happy with the outcome,” Petersen told the Cowboy State Daily on Friday.
“It felt very good,” Junior said, recalling the moment the verdict was read. “I almost cried tears of joy.”
Claire McFarland It can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.