Teen pleads guilty in connection with deadly shooting
Staff Writer | October 27, 2021 1:06 AM
COEUR d’ALENE — A local teen accepted a plea deal for his role in a drug deal gone bad.
Vadin K. Bartlett, 18, of Coeur d’Alene, pleaded guilty in accordance with Alford last week to attempted robbery, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
By entering an Alford plea, Bartlett does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence to convict him at trial.
The state has dropped charges of conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary, both felonies, as part of a plea agreement.
Prosecutors also agreed to limit their sentence recommendation to seven years fixed and to file no new charges against Bartlett.
The remaining charge stems from the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Gabriel R. Casper.
Police responded May 31 to the area of 23rd Street and Coeur d’Alene Avenue, where a motorcyclist had come across a man, later identified as Casper, on the road in a pool of blood.
Neighbors attempted to render aid before first responders arrived but could not find a pulse.
Casper was later pronounced dead at Kootenai Health.
Witnesses said they saw a red Jeep speeding away from the scene after gunshots rang out.
Bartlett identified himself to police as a friend of Casper’s, along with a 17-year-old boy from Hayden and a 17-year-old Hayden girl.
The three teens reportedly told police that Casper had planned to steal drugs from a Spokane dealer, later identified as 19-year-old Matthew J. Holmberg.
Prosecutors said Casper arranged to meet Holmberg and 23-year-old Liberty Lake resident Dennen T.G. Fitterer-Usher in Coeur d’Alene to purchase illegal pills.
Bartlett and the 17-year-old boy agreed to help Casper steal the drugs, while the 17-year-old girl agreed to be the “getaway driver,” according to reports.
Bartlett and Casper were reportedly both armed with handguns when they got into the back of Holmberg’s vehicle, a red Jeep Wrangler.
Casper and Holmberg allegedly struggled over a duffel bag containing drugs.
Fitterer-Usher, who was in the front passenger seat, allegedly pulled out a handgun and fired at the people in the back.
Bartlett and the other teen told police they scrambled to get out of the Jeep and ran.
The teen girl, who was waiting in a truck nearby, said she heard gunshots and saw a red Jeep racing from the scene.
Police said the trio identified Holmberg as the dealer.
The day after the shooting, Fitterer-Usher reportedly contacted law enforcement and said he killed Casper in self defense.
When interviewed by police, Fitterer-Usher said Holmberg asked him to accompany him to a drug deal in Coeur d’Alene on May 31.
He said Casper and another person got into the back of Holmberg’s Jeep and almost immediately pulled out handguns.
Fitterer-Usher said he drew his own gun and fired, shooting Casper in the head.
Casper sustained gunshot wounds in his head, chest, back, arm and hand, according to court documents.
His body was hanging out of the vehicle as Holmberg fled the scene, police said, and fell out of the Jeep at 23rd Street.
After that, Fitterer-Usher said, he and Holmberg drove to Smelterville to change their bloody clothes. They also attempted to clean the blood from the interior of the Jeep.
Holmberg and Fitterer-Usher are facing federal criminal charges in connection with the shooting.
A grand jury indicted both men in late July on charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, as well as possession and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
The pills contained a detectable amount of fentanyl, according to court documents.
Bartlett and the other teens were taken into custody June 14 after police obtained warrants for their arrests.
Bartlett is scheduled to be sentenced in January before First District Judge Lansing Haynes.