Death in Lockridge ruled justifiable homicide
FAIRFIELD — Jefferson County Attorney Tim Dille will not press charges relating to the death of David Bittner because he believes Bittner died as a result of a justifiable homicide.
Bittner, 46, of rural Mount Pleasant, was shot in the abdomen while at a residence in Lockridge on Sept. 4. Dille said Bittner was shot by his son, Steven, who fired a shotgun slug into David after David had broken through a locked door and approached Steven.
Dille said David was known to carry a revolver on his person. He said David approached Steven in the house. David reached behind his back, at which point Steven shot him. Dille said when David was shot, a loaded revolver fell to the floor.
Steven then called 911, Dille said. Paramedics arrived and transported David to the Jefferson County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy on David recovered the single shotgun slug in his body. Dille said he and the authorities were surprised to find the slug considering that they believe Steven shot David at a range of 10-15 feet.
The autopsy also uncovered that David had a blood alcohol content of .253.
Dille said all the evidence the investigators found matched Steven’s version of events. The investigators discovered the door had been kicked in, just as Steven said. Dille said that was a crucial piece of evidence because it showed David broke into the house.
The residence Steven was in at the time, 105 W. Main St., was not his house but the house of his sister, Samantha, and her husband, Cody, whom he had been staying with. Dille said Steven was justified in shooting David because it was a home invasion, and it didn’t matter who technically owned the house.
Dille also said Steven would have been justified in shooting David even if David had not been armed when he broke in, although Dille said the fact David was armed made it a clear case of justifiable homicide.
Samantha and Cody were not home at the time of the shooting, which occurred at approximately 11 p.m. that night. Steven and his mother, Tracie, were at the house to babysit Tracie’s baby granddaughter. Dille said David pounded on the door and wanted to come in, at which time Tracie took the baby into a bathroom and locked the door.
Dille said Steven and Tracie had been notified David might be in the Lockridge area through a phone call they received from David’s parents. Steven then went to the van outside the home to retrieve the shotgun. David owned the shotgun, which he normally kept in the van.
Shortly after the phone call, Steven and Tracie heard someone pound on the door.
“Steven repeatedly told [David] to leave, and then [David] kicked the door in,” Dille said.
Dille said David refused to leave. When David reached behind his back, Steven shot him.
Dille said he was not intimately familiar with the family dynamics. He did not know why David would want to break into the house.
The Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation and the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office jointly investigated the case. They interviewed eight witnesses, all of them either family members or close friends of the family. Steven was the only witness who was present at the shooting itself, although Tracie was able to hear what was happening from the bathroom.
Dille said David had a confrontation with Steven and Tracie earlier on the day of the shooting. He also said witnesses told him David had a history of being verbally abusive to his wife and children.
From what he could gather, Dille believed David was living with his parents at MacCoon Access, four miles north of Lockridge, at the time of the shooting. Dille said David and Tracie had not been living together for a few weeks prior. David and Tracie married in 1994 and were still legally married at the time of David’s death.
On Sept. 4, Steven and Tracie dropped David off at the home of Daniel Triska in Mount Pleasant. Triska was an acquaintance of David’s. That night, Triska was driving David to David’s parents’ house near MacCoon’s Access. As they were driving through Lockridge, David got out of the vehicle about half a block from Samantha and Cody’s house.
Triska couldn’t find where David had taken off to in the town. He then called David’s parents to tell them David jumped out of the car in Lockridge. David’s parents called Steven and Tracie to let them know David was in Lockridge.
Dille said Triska did not know why David got out of the vehicle in Lockridge. Triska told investigators David did not divulge what he planned to do. Dille said Triska was unaware David was carrying a revolver at the time.
Dille said Triska and David had not seen each other for a couple of years prior to this incident. When Triska came home from work that evening, David was sitting on Triska’s front porch. Dille said Triska did not want David to enter his home, which is why he was driving David to his parents’ house.
According to his obituary, David grew up in Brighton and attended Washington schools in his youth.