Troopers: Man accused of shooting village police officer had diverted booze from a wedding

ldemer@adn.comSeptember 26, 2013 

A Buckland man who shot a village police officer in July after being confronted in the dry community with a boatload of beer, wine and whiskey has agreed to plead guilty to attempted murder, third-degree assault and felony importation of alcohol, according to a notice filed in court Thursday.

Gary Ballot, 40, faces a sentence of between 20 and 30 years in prison, plus whatever other conditions the judge wants to impose, under the plea agreement.

Cases of Budweiser and Coors Light, along with liters of wine and bottles of Rich & Rare whiskey, were supposed to be delivered to a family camp between Buckland and Kotzebue for a wedding, according to a trooper's sworn statement filed with the original charges. On July 24, someone who didn't give a name called the troopers' Western Alaska Alcohol and Narcotics Team asking if it would be legal to transport alcohol from Kotzebue to the Lester Hadley camp about 15 miles north of Buckland for the wedding of Calvin Moto and Jessie Hadley. As long as the alcohol was bought legally in Kotzebue, didn't get within five miles of a dry community and wasn't offered for sale at the wedding, the action was legal, the caller was told.

But Ballot decided to take his alcohol-filled boat past the camp and back down to Buckland, where the importation, possession and sale of alcohol are banned, trooper Sgt. Kid Chan said in the statement. Buckland, a community of about 450 people, is 75 miles southeast of Kotzebue.

At some point the Buckland mayor, Tim Gavin, received an anonymous tip that Ballot was going to bring booze into the village, he told troopers. The village council authorized a warrantless search, the mayor said. He didn't return phone calls to discuss the case or the search. But state prosecutor Gustaf Olson said troopers obtained search warrants for their investigation after the shooting.

The mayor sent village police officer Lorin Geary a text that Ballot was making a booze run, Geary later told troopers.

A couple of passengers on Ballot's boat, Carl Thomas and Gilford Barr, later told an investigator they bought beer and spirits in Kotzebue, and expected it to be dropped off at the Hadley camp for the wedding. But Ballot refused, they said.

Jade Williams told troopers she came to Buckland from Kotzebue on Ballot's boat with her boyfriend, Jess Hadley, the brother of the bride.

Around midnight, three hours into the trip, Hadley told Ballot he would take over the driving. Ballot had been drinking, Williams said.

Early on July 26, the skiff arrived. The group unloaded boxes marked Mattel toys and Chiquita bananas in which troopers later found beer. Other village residents gathered around.

Geary, fellow village police officer Murphy Lee and village public safety officer Allen Jones met the boat on the banks of the Buckland River. Neither village police nor public safety officers are armed, though a Bush legislator is proposing to change that for the public safety officers.

Geary told Ballot he was going to search the boat and seize the alcohol, and would get a warrant later, he told troopers. Ballot smelled of alcohol, was swaying and had slurred speech and glassy eyes, Geary said.

Instead of cooperating, Ballot got back on the boat and pulled out a rifle, multiple witnesses told troopers.

Jade Williams said she started running away, as did others.

Geary told troopers he saw Ballot get something out of a box on the boat but didn't realize Ballot had a gun. He told Ballot he was going to arrest him.

Ballot raised the gun and said he wasn't going to go, Geary told troopers. Geary said he thought he was going to be killed. He jumped into the boat to wrest away the rifle but before he could grab it, Ballot shot him, the trooper statement said.

Lee, the other village police officer, saw feathers flying out from Geary's poufy jacket. Ballot -- with Geary still holding onto him -- tried to start the boat and take off, Lee told troopers. Lee said he jumped onto the skiff, turned off the engine and grabbed the rifle. Lee tried to handcuff Ballot but he ran off.

As the situation escalated, Gavin, the mayor, was on the phone talking the officers through the alcohol interdiction. An officer told him someone was shot. The mayor rounded up others and was headed to the scene when his wife called and said Ballot had just run by their house. From a pickup truck, the mayor-led group spotted Ballot, with a hat and bottle of Rich & Rare in his hands, near his own house.

When Ballot didn't obey orders to stop, the mayor said he jumped out of the truck, ran up to Ballot and tackled him. He and a neighbor then handcuffed the man.

Ballot's son came out and Ballot told him he shot Geary and "was going to jail for a long time," another witness told troopers.

Geary was seriously injured and only got out of Alaska Native Medical Center this month, said Olson, the prosecutor. He initially underwent about eight hours of surgery. The bullet went through his left elbow, which had to be reconstructed, the trooper statement said. That round or shrapnel went into his left hip and crossed his pelvis, lodging in his right ball joint, Olson said.

Geary faces a long period of rehabilitation. It's not yet known whether he will fully recover, the prosecutor said.

Ballot has agreed to plead guilty at a hearing set for Monday in Nome.

A conviction for attempted murder can bring a sentence ranging from five to 99 years. Ballot has prior felony convictions for weapons misconduct and burglary, the prosecutor said.

Reach Lisa Demer at ldemer@adn.com or 257-4390.

 

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