Two Nebraska residents accused in the Iowa shooting death of a man suspected of stealing a friend’s car are scheduled for trial next year.
Jonathan Echtinaw, 25, and Carissa Kendall, 23, and others went looking for the car on May 6 after a friend reported it stolen to police in Omaha, Nebraska, according to police. Echtinaw shot the suspected thief during a confrontation at a gas station in Council Bluffs, police have said, and a Pottawattamie County grand jury indicted the two.
They’ve pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Court records say they live in Omaha.
The case has presented an extra challenge because of the defendants’ assertions of self-defense, said Pottawattamie County’s chief prosecutor, Matt Wilber. That prompted him to employ a grand jury.
“If I’m struggling with what should we do, a grand jury is good to use. The conscious of the community,” he told The Daily Nonpareil earlier this week, noting in the vast majority of cases his office decides whether to charge someone.
The friends trying to find the woman’s car were tipped that it had been seen in Council Bluffs, across the Missouri River from Omaha, and they piled into their vehicles and began their search, police have said.
The car was spotted at a Council Bluffs gas station. Kendall stopped her vehicle in back of and another of the cars in the informal posse stopped in front, hemming it in, police said.
Echtinaw opened fire after the car driver put it in reverse and rammed Kendall’s vehicle and then blasted forward to hit the other vehicle, police said.
The driver managed to get away, with the posse in pursuit. The car soon crashed, police said, and the driver was rushed to an Omaha hospital, where he died.
He has been identified Ethan Edgar, 18, who lived in Hutchinson, Kansas.
The trial of Echtinaw and Kendall is set to begin Jan. 7, Iowa court records say.