In June of 2022, Gilbert Grooms was confronted and threatened at his job in the presence of his wife and children. He refused to fight hand-to-hand with a younger, brutal, and violent man. When the man continued to confront him and come at him, he used a shotgun to stop the assault.
He was charged with six felonies. He chose a jury trial. He was found not guilty of all charges.
A South Dakota man facing six felonies in connection with a June 2022 shooting at the Sheridan County Livestock Sale Barn in Rushville has been acquitted.
After a four day trial, a Sheridan County District Court jury on Thursday found 45-year-old Gilbert Grooms not guilty of Attempted Murder, First Degree Assault, Terroristic Threats, plus three Felony Firearms charges that had been filed in the case.
Almost all information to be found about the case on the Internet was from the prosecution. I wondered what had persuaded a jury to acquit Gilbert Grooms of all charges in only two and a half hours, which included lunch. It must have been a powerful defense. I contacted the attorney for the defense in the case, Tim Rench. He explained what the jury had heard.
Gilbert Grooms is a rancher with two children and a loving wife. He is 46 years old. He has had numerous injuries and surgery from working with horses, which have left him with metal screws in his shoulder and a broken vertebra. These injuries limit his balance and ability to act quickly. He lives on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation near the southern border of South Dakota.
About two years before the assault, Gilbert was repeatedly threatened by a friend of his deceased brother.
The adversary is a 35-year-old professional rodeo performer/competitor who also lives on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He is a known violent and brutal man who is very strong and tough, and has beat up numerous people in uninhibited fighting. The toughest man Gilbert Grooms knew had been knocked out by the person who threatened Gilbert. Gilbert wanted nothing to do this adversary, and avoided him.
Gilbert’s reputation is different. Gilbert is a church-attending family man. His neighbors and associates have nothing but praise for him. He is known for his honesty. Besides his ranch, he has been employed at the Sheridan County Livestock Sale Barn, about 30 miles south, across the border in Nebraska, for 27 years. He runs the horse auction at the Sale Barn every month, which involves considerable preparation and expertise. Here is a video of Gilbert in a testimonial for special wheels and tires designed for ranchers in 2016.
Video of Gilbert Grooms in 2016.
On the day of the assault, Gilbert was running the horse auction, a busy day. His wife and teenage daughters (13 and 16) had driven down in a separate vehicle. His daughters sometimes helped him with the auction. At the end of the auction, Gilbert offered to take them out to pizza. His family was waiting in the parking lot of the auction. As part of his job, Gilbert had to take a loadout sheet to a customer across the parking lot.
As Gilbert crossed the parking lot, he noticed his antagonist in a truck with a trailer, not too far from where his wife and children were waiting. The antagonist had been sitting in the truck for hours with his brother-in-law, drinking beer. The brother-in-law had gone into the auction to take possession of a check for the sale of a bull. Gilbert avoids his antagonist, delivers the loadout sheet, and makes some small talk, hoping the pair will drive away. They did not drive away.
Gilbert walks back, avoiding the pair and the truck, but the two men call him over. As customers of the auction, and in the interest of being polite, Gilbert approaches the truck and asks if they need anything. His antagonist sticks out his hand for a handshake. Gilbert, hoping to put the two years of apprehension behind him, takes his hand. His adversary grabs him and partly pulls him into the truck. Gilbert is able to break free.
The adversary challenges Gilbert to fight. Gilbert says he doesn’t want any trouble. Gilbert says he is willing to put everything aside if the adversary is willing to. The adversary jumps out of the pickup truck driver’s seat and says he is going to “f*ckin” kick Gilbert’s head in front of Gilbert’s children. Gilbert repeats that he does not want any trouble. Gilbert avoids the adversary and goes to Gilbert’s truck, which is about 30 yards away from his adversary and away from where his wife and children are parked. The adversary’s vehicle is parked between the Gilberts’ vehicles. If there is to be a violent confrontation, Gilbert doesn’t want his children involved. He has a bad feeling about what is happening.
At his truck, Gilbert quickly loads his shotgun with seven rounds of 00 buckshot. As he is doing this, the adversary gets back in his truck and spins through the large parking lot, with lots of people in it, throwing gravel about. It is a dangerous move. As the truck takes off, Gilbert lays the shotgun on the fender of Gilbert’s horse trailer. He hopes his opponent is leaving. The adversary doesn’t leave. He comes around and slams on the brakes to come to a halt in front of Gilbert’s truck. The adversary jumps out of the truck and tells Gilbert, as he approaches, “I am going to kill you and your whole family. ” Gilbert raises his shotgun. The adversary keeps coming at Gilbert. Gilbert fires in the dirt in front of him. The adversary runs back toward his truck.
Gilbert, knowing his opponent has a reputation for having guns and other weapons, shoots through the opponent’s truck windshield to keep him from accessing the inside of the truck. Then Gilbert puts a round through the truck radiator to keep his opponent from using the truck as a weapon against Gilbert, his children, or others. The adversary moves toward the back of his horse trailer and then doubles back toward Gilbert. As Gilbert raises the shotgun, the man starts to turn, to dive between the truck and trailer. Gilbert’s shot takes him in the left buttock area as he turns. There is some back and forth around the truck and trailer. Then, the adversary charges Gilbert, and Gilbert shoots him in the groin area. This slows down the adversary, and the adversary goes to the back of his horse trailer and sits down. Gilbert tells him to stay put until the authorities arrive. The adversary tells Gilbert, again, that he will kill Gilbert and his whole family. Gilbert tells the adversary if he tries this again or harms his family, Gilbert will do the same thing he just did.
At this point, law officers arrive. Gilbert hands the shotgun over to them willingly. The street fighter says: “I just wanted to fight! I just wanted to fight!”. Gilbert repeats his promise: if you harm my family, I will do this again. At the end of the video, the adversary says: “Hey Gilbert, maybe next time, you won’t be so lucky.”
Gilbert was charged with attempted murder, first-degree assault, three weapons charges in the commission of a felony, and terroristic threats.
When the police showed up, The adversary’s brother-in-law left the area. He avoided being questioned or searched at the scene. Later, the defense team found a .45 caliber cartridge inside the cab of the adversary’s truck.
The defense position was Gilbert’s actions were reasonable, and they were necessary.
The party who is attacking you does not need to have a weapon to be a deadly threat. The adversary could and had done great damage to others with his hands and feet. He testified he would do anything to win a fight. His truck was a potential weapon. Because the adversary’s brother-in-law fled the scene, it is impossible to know if there was a firearm in the adversary’s truck. Gilbert was reasonably afraid of death or paralysis by the man who made himself Gilbert’s enemy and the potential death of his children. Gilbert feared if the adversary was pounding him on the ground, his 13 and 16-year-old daughters would have tried to come to his rescue and could have been killed or severely injured by the adversary.
I asked Tim Rench how the adversary was not killed after being hit with two rounds of 00 buckshot. The man was not killed because Gilbert spared his life. Gilbert shot to disable instead of to kill. Gilbert took the stand in his own defense.
The jury was convinced. They took two and a half hours, including lunch, and acquitted Gilbert of all charges.
Why was Gilbert prosecuted? Tim Rench indicated the prosecution took the peculiar position a person could not legitimately use a firearm to defend against someone who did not show a weapon in their possession. This goes against precedent and the clear reading of the law. It is the same argument used by the prosecution when Kyle Rittenhouse was prosecuted for self-defense in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In that case the prosecutor, Thomas Binger, claimed a person armed with a firearm could not legally defend themselves against a person who was not armed with a visible weapon. The claim is false. The critical point is whether a person reasonably believes their life or bodily integrity is in danger, not what weapons the attacker may or may not possess.
The Gilbert Grooms case is a classic example of the doctrine of disparity of force. You have a known skilled, strong, and tough street fighter against a man with serious skeletal and neurological weakness who is more than a decade older. The defender knows he is unlikely to withstand a severe beating without being injured or killed. His use of a firearm to defend his life, bodily integrity and children is reasonable.
The jury agreed.
The lack of news coverage raises the question: How many similar cases happen that are overlooked outside of brief local stories? This case came to light because the prosecutor decided to charge Gilbert. Gilbert chose to take it to a jury trial, and the jury did their job. This article was possible because a defense attorney was willing to talk on the record. It may never have made news if the prosecutor chose not to file charges, if Gilbert had taken a plea deal, or if the jury would have found Gilbert guilty. Gilbert’s defense would never have been known if this correspondent had not found Tim Rench and Tim Rench had agreed to an interview.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer and military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30-year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.