Status of accused Mac Behrs shooter uncertain

2013-10-17T22:00:00Z 2014-04-07T20:44:15Z Status of accused Mac Behrs shooter uncertainNICK HYTREK nhytrek@siouxcityjournal.com Sioux City Journal
October 17, 2013 10:00 pm  • 

SIOUX CITY | This much is certain: Solomon Harris is in the Woodbury County Jail and has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial.

What happens next with the man accused of shooting a young woman in a downtown Sioux City bar has lawyers deciphering the state's mental commitment procedures to find a way for Harris to receive proper care.

"It's very complicated to find placement for him," Harris' attorney, public defender Greg Jones, said late Thursday afternoon after he and prosecutors met in chambers with District Judge Mary Jane Sokolovske to discuss a resolution on Harris' status.

Both sides will await Sokolovske's ruling.

Harris, 25, is charged in Woodbury County District Court with willful injury causing serious injury, intimidation with a dangerous weapon, assault while participating in a felony causing serious injury and reckless use of a firearm resulting in serious injury for the Nov. 18 shooting of Natacha Butera in Mac Behrs, 1201 Fourth St. He has not entered a plea, and the case remains stayed because of the incompetence issues.

Both Jones and assistant Woodbury County Attorney Drew Bockenstedt have had psychologists evaluate Harris. Findings from those examinations are not part of the public court record.

On Sept. 9, District Judge Duane Hoffmeyer committed Harris to the Iowa Department of Corrections Medical and Classification Center to determine if he would gain competency to stand trial because he had been diagnosed as mildly retarded and is unable to understand court proceedings and assist in his defense.

Since then, Jones said, it was determined unlikely that Harris would gain competence, and he was returned to Woodbury County.

Bockenstedt has asked that Harris be placed at a State Resource Center, an Iowa Department of Human Services facility for people with intellectual disabilities and special needs.

"We are trying to protect the community, even though we can't prosecute him," Bockenstedt said.

Jones did not oppose the request.

"If it's appropriate for placement, I'm all right with that," he said.

The Resource Center must first evaluate Harris to see if he's fit for services there and if there's room available. Lawyers are unsure what would happen if he's not accepted.

It's possible Harris could be committed to another facility under other civil commitment statutes. The length of commitment also could depend on which statute is used to commit Harris.

It appears unlikely that Harris could be released from custody anytime soon. Hoffmeyer ruled that Harris poses a danger to public safety and needs full-time custody and care. For Harris to be set free, Jones said, a judge would have to determine Harris no longer is a public safety threat.

Police allege that Harris fired a .45-caliber pistol at a man with whom he had been in a fight. The bullet instead hit Butera, then 20, a Briar Cliff University foreign exchange student from Rwanda, and pierced her liver and lung. The two did not appear to know each other, police said.

Butera was hospitalized for six days after the shooting and has moved from Sioux City.

Copyright 2015 Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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