Robert “Kip” Bates III stepped out the front door during a shift at the Jump Start Conoco convenience store to take a break in the last moments of his life. An unknown suspect shot the 39-year-old twice, mortally wounding a man who’d served with the Marines during Operation Desert Storm.
The assailant or assailants fled the scene and, seven years later, no arrests have been made in the now-cold case.
“It’s still one that we hope will get solved,” Pottawattamie County Sheriff Jeff Danker said.
The sheriff’s office worked with the Carter Lake Police Department to investigate the murder. The best piece of evidence is a brief surveillance video of the incident, which depicts Bates being shot twice: once in the lower-left abdomen, which exited Bates’ back, and once in the chest, which struck Bates’ spine.
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Bates was able to call 911, but according to IowaColdCases.org he was unable to say anything while on the line. He survived the gunshots for less than three minutes, managing to go back inside the store. Bates succumbed to the injuries before receiving medical attention.
Along with the 911 call, he also phoned his girlfriend,
“He just said, ‘Help me, help me,’” Katie Bright said at the time. “It was his last words.”
That September night Bates hadn’t been scheduled to work, but switched schedules with a fellow employee. Bates worked alone that night at the store, which is located 109 Locust St. on the western edge of Carter Lake.
Shortly after his murder, Bates’ uncle told local media that Kip Bates had been involved in an altercation at the convenience store. It had bothered Bates enough to mention it to his uncle, but not enough to elaborate or report it to police, IowaColdCases.org noted.
Investigators ruled out robbery as a motive, as no one entered the store after the shooting and nothing was stolen from Bates or the store.
Bright said she had no idea who would have targeted her boyfriend.
Bates graduated from high school in California but had attended Benson High School in Omaha. He rose to the rank of Lance Corporal in the Marines, serving in the Persian Gulf. He is survived by three children and is buried at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon, Calif.
Shortly after his death his aunt, Pamela Williams, said Bates had never been in any trouble, and described him as a mild-mannered, helpful person.
She remembered the time Bates was undergoing physical therapy after a knee surgery. There, he met an older woman who was having a hard time working around the house.
Despite his own difficulties with his knee, Bates helped the woman with her housework, Williams said.
“He always tried to help people,” she said. “In general, he was a good guy. A hard worker.”
Bright told local media that, “He was the sweetest person.”
Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the sheriff’s office at (712)890-2200, the Carter Lake Police Department at (712) 347-5920 or Crime Stoppers at 712-328-STOP (7867). Tipsters can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.
“We are reviewing some of the cold cases we have and this is one of them,” said Lt. Rob Ambrose, an investigator with the sheriff’s office. “If anybody has information, please get in contact with us. We want to get more information out there.”
Added Danker: “We’re hoping we’ll get some new leads.”
– The BH Media News Service contributed to this story.