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Iditarod musher charged after alleged firearms misconduct

Casey Grove

A veteran Iditarod musher and his longtime partner have been charged with assault in an incident with Alaska State Troopers, who showed up at the couple's Talkeetna cabin late Sunday.

Neighbors said Gerald "Jerry" Sousa fired a gun while driving a four-wheeler on their land. Sousa, 54, said through his lawyer Wednesday that he had not fired a shot.

Troopers Scott Lanier and Kevin Blanchette drove to a home on Cabin Spike Avenue just before 11 p.m. Sunday when neighbors called about Sousa, a member of the Iditarod Trail Committee Inc., who finished 20th in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race this year. The troopers were investigating a report from a man who said he was sleeping in his trailer on Beaver Road when he heard a four-wheeler pull into his driveway, then three or four gunshots, according to a charging document. Worried for his life, the man crawled across his floor and saw Sousa riding away, he told troopers.

There were no bullet holes in the trailer nor any spent shell casings found nearby, the charges say.

The troopers met Sousa at his cabin's front door. He was naked and holding a black revolver, according to Blanchette's account in the charging document.

"I immediately announced, 'State Troopers! Drop the gun!' " Blanchette wrote. "I repeated the phrase a second time as he was bending down to put the gun at his feet."

But Sousa held another revolver, a white one, which he'd hidden behind the cabin's door frame, the charges say. Blanchette said he again yelled, "Drop the gun!" and Sousa moved in and out of the door frame twice, then said, "Just shoot me."

Sousa eventually surrendered the second revolver, came out of the cabin with his arms up and was arrested. But the situation continued inside the cabin with a woman named Kathleen Holden, whom Sousa's lawyer identified as his client's long-time partner.

According to charges filed against Holden, the troopers found her awake in bed inside the cabin. Holden rolled onto her stomach when they came into the bedroom and put her hand under her pillow as if she had a weapon, wrote Trooper Blanchette, who said Holden refused to get out of the bed and kicked him. Blanchette then dragged her out and tried to handcuff her, he said in the charges.

"She placed her left hand near her face, and when I grabbed her wrist, I felt her teeth bearing down on my hand, causing immediate pain," Blanchette wrote. "I immediately struck the side of her right jaw with a closed fist preventing her from sinking her teeth into my hand. I then drive stunned her in the ribs with my Taser in an attempt to gain control of her."

Holden stopped for a moment, but when Blanchette approached her again, she kicked him in the chest with both feet, the trooper wrote. He shocked Holden again and, with help from Trooper Lanier, handcuffed her, the charges say.

Sousa registered a breath-alcohol content of 0.113. The legal limit to drive is 0.08. Holden was not given a test.

Sousa and Holden were jailed in Palmer. Sousa faces a weapons misconduct charge, three counts of third-degree assault, and one count of trespassing. Holden is charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault and resisting arrest.

Sousa's lawyer, Phillip Weidner, denied the allegations and the troopers' version of Sunday night's events.

"No shots were fired. Mr. Sousa never threatened the troopers, and he cooperated when they showed up at his door," Weidner said. "We're deeply disturbed about the way his wife was treated, and the charges will be addressed in an appropriate fashion and will demonstrate both Jerry Sousa's and Kathleen Holden's lack of culpability as to the allegations."

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.


By CASEY GROVE
Anchorage Daily News