Trial begins for man accused of shooting sheriff’s office volunteer
The attempted murder trial of Gregory Niedermeyer, an Ash Fork man accused of shooting a Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) volunteer in 2015, began at the Yavapai County Superior Court in Prescott on Thursday, Nov. 7.
On July 9, 2015, Niedermeyer, 53, and his son, Jason, 28, allegedly fired long-range rifles at “Volunteer in Protection” member Steve Edgar.
Edgar had been patrolling his neighborhood in a fully-marked YCSO vehicle around 6 p.m. that day when he witnessed an off-road vehicle speeding in the area, according to Edgar’s testimony Thursday.
He said he followed the dust trail of the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) to the back gate of a large property in Juniperwood Ranch and began to take note of the location so he could report what he observed to a deputy.
While sitting there, he noticed a distant building on the property that had an open window, he said. Wanting to get a better look at the window, he went to grab binoculars from the rear of his vehicle.
As he lifted the hatch of his vehicle, a binder fell out and papers in the binder quickly scattered in the wind, he said.
Most of the papers, which he considered important, were caught on the gate of the property and easily retrievable, but several blew past the gate onto the property, Edgar said.
Claiming there was no signage posted indicating “no trespassing,” and no one in sight to ask permission to enter the property, he said he decided to open the gate and walk about 15 feet onto the property to pick up a few of the remaining papers.
Just as he was getting ready to exit the property, he said he heard a “buzzing” sound, followed by something slamming into his hip.
“It felt like somebody hit me with a baseball bat,” Edgar said.
A bullet had struck a leather pouch on his hip containing handgun magazines. Having military experience, his instincts kicked in and he quickly dove for cover behind a pile of rocks, he said.
He said he heard several more shots whiz by before there was a break in the attack. He took that opportunity to run to his vehicle, get in and drive away. As he drove away, he said he heard a final flurry of shots.
When it appeared he was in the clear, he noticed he was bleeding from his hip and reported what happened.
Law enforcement officers later responded in force and both Jason and Gregory surrendered without incident.
Edgar was transported to the emergency room, where he received surgery. It was found that the rifle bullet had passed through his hip, but when it struck his ammunition pouch, it set off two rounds that fragmented into his hip.
“[Surgeons] tried to get as many [bullet fragments] out as they could, but I still have some in the wounds,” Edgar said.
Jason was the first to go to trial for the alleged offense. He was indicted on 10 felony counts and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Prior to trial, the prosecution voluntarily dismissed all but three counts: Attempted first degree murder; aggravated assault causing injury to a law enforcement officer; and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
His trial began on March 30, 2017, and concluded on April 14, 2017.
According to a summary of the case on Leagle.com, the court dismissed the count involving aggravated assault causing injury to a law enforcement officer because the evidence showed that Gregory had fired the shot that struck Edgar.
Jason also told the jury he only fired his gun because he was afraid of his father, according to the summary. He added that he intentionally “shot to miss” and didn’t fire until the victim had returned to his car and was driving away.
The jury ended up finding Jason not guilty of attempted first-degree murder and guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Since Jason already had a felony record, the court sentenced him to 15 years flat time in prison.
Since his arrest in 2015, Gregory’s case has been repeatedly delayed due to various circumstances.
Some of those have included a reassignment of the judge handling the case, a reassignment of the prosecutor and multiple evaluations to determine if Gregory is mentally competent to stand trial.
Craig Williams, the defense attorney appointed to the case by the Yavapai County Contract Administrator, has also expressed difficulty with preparing for the case and has attempted to withdraw as the defendant’s counsel on two occasions, stating that his client refuses to communicate with him.
“I’m unable to properly defend without input from my client,” Williams said Thursday in a final attempt to withdraw from the trial. Gregory was not present for the first day of trial proceedings, and it’s unclear whether he will attend his trial at any point.
The presiding judge, Tina Ainley, denied William’s motion to withdraw, stating that “anyone else would be in the same position as you.”
Gregory is facing four felony charges: Two counts of attempt to commit second-degree murder; aggravated assault; and criminal damage.
In his opening statement to the jury, Joshua Fisher, a prosecutor with the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office, said that during the trial, he will show them that not only did Gregory fire the shot that hit Edgar, but that Gregory also repositioned and used another, more powerful rifle, to take two more shots at Edgar.
“At this trial’s conclusion, I’m going to have the opportunity to speak with you again, and when I do, I’m going to ask that you find the defendant guilty,” Fisher said to the jury.
The 11-day trial is scheduled to wrap up by Nov. 22.