The man accused of shooting a Mountain Home airman in the chest while he did laundry at a city laundromat last year has pleaded guilty to two felony charges, according to Elmore County Prosecutor Kristina Schindele.
Lajuan C. Lee, 38, will be sentenced at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 29 in Elmore County Court.
Lee was initially charged with first-degree attempted murder and with the use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony. The attempted murder charge was amended to aggravated battery when Lee entered his guilty pleas Dec. 9.
The victim was Michael John Ambeau.
“We have evidence he intended to kill Mr. Ambeau,” Elmore County Prosecutor Kristina Schindele told the Statesman in the days after the shooting. The motive was unclear, but police and the prosecutor said the two men did not know each other and they’d ruled out mugging and illegal activity, such as a drug deal gone bad.
Schindele declined Monday to discuss the motive for the shooting. She said those details would come out at the sentencing in February.
Schindele said the maximum sentences for attempted murder and aggravated battery are the same — up to 15 years in prison. The enhancement for use of a deadly weapon also carries 15 years. The state will seek restitution, though Schindele did not specify an amount.
Lee pleaded guilty on the first day of what was expected to be an eight-day trial.
The shooting occurred at about 10:30 a.m. Nov. 1, 2014, at the Econo Wash Laundromat on American Legion Boulevard. A video camera inside the laundromat captured the incident, though some of it wasn’t very clear.
The victim and witnesses outside the laundromat observed the shooter fleeing in a tan, two-door Toyota Corolla. Mountain Home police put out alerts to law enforcement in the region. Community tips helped police identify Lee as a suspect, and police released a photo of Lee and described him as a person of interest.
On the night of the shooting, Lee was found on the grounds a vacant former lumberyard in Ontario, Ore. He was taken into custody for trespassing. Police then determined Lee was the suspect wanted in connection with the Mountain Home shooting. He was booked into the Malheur County Jail in Vale.
Investigators from Mountain Home questioned Lee in Ontario and served him with a $500,000 arrest warrant on suspicion of aggravated battery. Lee waived extradition, and he was transported back to Idaho to face felony charges.
In Idaho, Lee’s criminal history includes a 2003 guilty plea to misdemeanor battery in Ada County, according to online court records.
Ambeau, who was taken by air ambulance to a Boise hospital, was with the 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base. He survived the shooting, but no details were released on his injuries or recovery.