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More details released in deadly shooting of Boise man at Custer County campground

Investigators say the 73-year-old accused the other group of being in his spot, complained about "Californians" and fired two shots before he was shot and killed.
Credit: KTVB
File image from 2016 of then Middleton Police Chief Brian Zimmerman.

CHALLIS, Idaho — The Custer County Sheriff's Office released more information Wednesday on a deadly shooting involving the Bonners Ferry police chief, nearly three months after the incident. 

Chief Brian Zimmerman was off-duty when he shot and killed a 73-year-old Boise man Aug. 1 in the Tin Cup Campground, located west of Challis in the Salmon-Challis National Forest Aug. 1. 

According to the sheriff's office, Zimmerman and 17 other people were in the sixth day of an eight-day UTV trip when they stopped at the campground and set up tents. After dinner, most of the group was sitting around the campfire when a blue Ford pickup pulled into the campground at about 10:15 p.m.

RELATED: Bonners Ferry police chief shot and killed Boise man during altercation at campground, authorities say

The pickup's driver - later identified as 73-year-old Russell Liddell - sat with the pickup idling for several minutes before pulling into a circular turnaround. The driver came within a few feet of an occupied tent as he tried repeatedly to back up, according to witnesses. 

After several attempts by Liddell to back up, Roberta Zimmerman approached the man to see if he needed help. At that point, according to the Custer County Sheriff's Office, Liddell told her that the group was in "his" camping spot, and asked where they were from.

Roberta Zimmerman, who told the man they were from North Idaho, later reported that Liddell seemed "agitated and upset" that the group was camping there. Another man in the group, Ted Stonehocker, also spoke with Liddell and said he smelled like alcohol. 

RELATED: Boise man shot and killed during altercation at Idaho campground

According to the sheriff's office, several members of the group heard Liddell say "all you f--- Californians coming up here with your God damn fancy toys." 

Stonehocker reportedly told Liddell that he needed to leave or he'd run him off with his .41 gun. Liddell then told Stonehocker that he had a .45-caliber gun on him.

Stonehocker walked away from the pickup, and Liddell backed up and drove about 20 yards away, then stopped with his headlights shining on Stonehocker's tent. 

Credit: Google Maps
Tin Cup Campground is located on Loon Creek in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, at the border of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

Meanwhile, Chief Brian Zimmerman had gone to his UTV and retrieved a Glock .22 pistol, which he put in his shorts pocket. Investigators say the police chief had heard about Liddell's comments to Roberta Zimmerman, but had not heard what he said to Stonehocker. Brian Zimmerman and two other men in the group then walked over to the pickup to talk with the driver. 

RELATED: Man killed in shooting at Valley County campground

As Zimmerman approached the pickup, he said, he called out to Liddell, asking him what was going on, and told him to watch his language. The chief said Liddell mumbled something in response, then opened his door and got out of the pickup, stumbling and nearly falling as he did so.

After getting out, according to the sheriff's office, Liddell opened up the driver's side back passenger door and began rummaging around for something inside the cab. Zimmerman and the two other men all reported hearing the sound of the slide on a semi-automatic pistol being racked, at which point Zimmerman took his own handgun from his pocket.

As Liddell turned back toward the group he fired two shots, investigators say. The police chief said he fired back about five times, hitting the other man. Zimmerman retrieved Liddell's gun before others in the group checked him for a pulse, and found none. 

RELATED: Sheriff: Eagle Police officer in surgery, expected to recover after being shot twice

No one was hit by Liddell's bullets. 

A member of the group rode a UTV to a nearby ranch, where he called police. An Idaho State Police trooper and a Custer County sheriff's deputy arrived at the campground at 1:44 a.m. 

The Eastern Idaho Critical Task Force has taken over the investigation, and no charges have been filed. Zimmerman remains in his position as Bonners Ferry police chief.