Witness testimony and police body camera footage followed opening statements by the prosecution in Riley County District court Friday as the murder trial of 31-year-old Richard Goens commences.
Goens, represented by attorney Nick Heiman, appeared Friday before Judge Grant Bannister. Goens is one of four defendants linked to an allegedly planned robbery under the guise of an illicit cannabis deal on November 1, 2019 outside Park Place Apartments in Manhattan. Prosecutors allege Goens fired the shot that killed 23-year-old Tanner Zamecnik, and Goens is charged with one count of first-degree murder as well as criminal discharge of a firearm, aggravated assault and aggravated battery, as well as attempted aggravated robbery.
Co-defendants Dylan Hitsman and Jaylon Hitsman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and other charges, with Jaylon entering into a plea agreement with prosecutors. Dylan was sentenced to 24 years in prison in March of 2021 while Jaylon faces 15 years as part of his plea deal, though sentencing is delayed until the outcome of Goens’ trial.
Shamar Sutton is also believed by police to be involved in the plot and faces similar charges to Goens. Their case was continued to January 18 by Judge Bannister.
In his opening statements, Assistant Riley County Attorney John Griffin painted Goens as the creator of the plot that resulted in Zamecnik’s death. Griffin says Goens, Sutton and the Hitsman brothers were smoking cannabis together at Goens’ Moro Street apartment. Looking for a connection to get more marijuana, Griffin says Dylan made the crew aware that Zamecnik had recently traveled to Colorado and had weed for sale.
There, the plan was hatched. Griffin says Goens asked Sutton to drive the group to the pick-up spot at 1400 Cambridge Place in return for marijuana, where the Hitsmans would make contact with Zamecnik and text Goens once they were sure he had the cannabis in his possession. At that point, Goens would come and act as though the robbery was random while pretending to rob their confidants in the vehicle as well. Before they left, Griffin says Goens showed the quartet the 9mm handgun he brought for the act.
Griffin previewed future testimony from Sutton, who Griffin says will indicate the group parked such that they could obscure their presence from Zamecnik. Once there, Griffin says the Hitsmans entered the backseat of Zamecnik’s vehicle, with the front passenger seat occupied by Zamecnik’s girlfriend. There, the two asked to see and hold the cannabis which Zamecnik refused until the Hitsmans presented payment.
Griffin says an awkward silence fell over the car, and at some point Dylan sent a text to Goens reading ‘ready.’ Griffin says Goens then walked up to the driver side passenger door and acted as though he was randomly robbing the party. Zamecnik, though, was ‘stubborn’ says Griffin. He attempted to flee in the vehicle when a single shot rang out and a 9mm hollow-point round entered his chest through his armpit. The car lurched forward before the incapacitated Zamecnik’s foot floored the gas pedal, ramming the car into a Jeep Wrangler and pushing both vehicles over a parking block and eastward into an apartment building. Zamecnik’s girlfriend sustained leg injuries as a result of the collision, which Griffin says has resulted in lasting pain and multiple surgeries.
Griffin says Zamecnik never had a chance in the situation, and asked jurors to find Goens guilty of all charges. Defense attorney Heiman reserved the right to present opening statements after the prosecution has rested.
In court, multiple state witnesses from that evening shared what they saw. Micke Ramirez heard the commotion from his third-floor apartment, and upon walking to his balcony window saw two men standing outside before he heard tires squealing from Zamecnik’s car as it began to accelerate toward the jeep and building. He then noticed a separate vehicle flee south, though with his attention diverted to the collision did not see who entered the vehicle.
Jaden Jeffery was walking his dog when he heard the gunshot and saw two people fleeing west on foot and was unable to certainly say he saw more. Jeffery, a pre-med student at the time, helped take control of the scene until help could arrive. He checked Zamecnik’s pulse multiple times and was unable to feel a pulse once police arrived. Jeffery stayed on scene to tell police what he saw and which directions he saw people flee before heading home.
Footage from the body camera of Riley County Police Officer Wesley Ulmer was also viewed, showing Ulmer arriving on-scene and, alongside Cpl. Samuel Shubert, pulling Zamecnik from his vehicle to begin administering aid until paramedics arrived.
Ulmer says he was at the end of his shift when a call for shots fired and an injury accident came from dispatch. Once medical personnel were on scene, Ulmer says he remained on scene speaking to witnesses and searching for evidence before being activated as part of a tactical team that set out to apprehend the quickly-identified Goens in the early morning hours of November 2, 2019. Ulmer says police utilized RCPD’s Bearcat armored vehicle to ram open Goens’ door and broadcast messages for him to exit for multiple hours. Goens was located with his girlfriend in the building with the help of a remote-controlled robot before being taken into custody.
RCPD’s Sgt. Nathan Boeckman also responded that evening, saying he was informed by a witness of two to four suspects fleeing. More officers and a K9 unit were called in to follow the suspects’ trail, on which clothing and jackets were located that Griffin indicated were linked to those involved. Further testimony regarding the identification and testing of recovered clothes will come as the trial progresses.
Following Boeckman’s testimony, the jury was released for lunch. Goens’ trial is slated to last a week, and testimony continues Friday afternoon.
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