Troopers: Alleged bootlegger shoots village police officer

Casey Grove

A Buckland police officer is recovering after a suspected booze smuggler shot him in the early morning hours Friday alongside a river in the village, according to Alaska State Troopers.

The sale or importation of alcohol is banned in Buckland, a community of roughly 450 people on the Buckland River 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle.

Officer Lorin Geary heard that Gary Ballot was coming up the river in a boat carrying bottles of alcohol, troopers said in a written statement. Geary, 48, met Ballot, 40, on a beach, then Ballot got out of the boat and shot the officer, troopers said.

Someone called troopers in Kotzebue, 75 miles away, about 3 a.m. Geary received treatment at the village clinic and a medical charter flight flew him to a hospital in Kotzebue and then to a hospital in Anchorage.

"Several concerned citizens heard what happened and responded to provide assistance. The firearm was taken away from Ballot and he was taken into custody," the troopers statement says.

Geary was expected to survive when he was flown out of Buckland, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said. Peters declined to describe Geary's wounds. Alaska Native Medical Center reported Geary in fair condition Friday afternoon.

Ballot was also hurt sometime after the shooting but before troopers arrived, Peters said. She did not say how Ballot was injured or how badly.

"We do not believe it to be life-threatening but we haven't received additional information from a medical professional," Peters said.

Troopers and a state alcohol-importation investigator flew in an airplane, a Piper PA-32R Saratoga, from Kotzebue to Buckland and arrested Ballot on a charge of attempted murder of a village police officer and alcohol importation, according to the troopers statement. Peters said midday Friday that the investigators were still working and she did not know what type of booze Ballot carried.

Anchorage investigators were said to be heading to Buckland to talk to witnesses and look into the shooting further.

An Alaska Native Medical Center spokesman refused to give Geary an interview request from the Daily News, saying such requests could only go through troopers. Peters said late Friday she could not confirm that was true.

The Buckland Mayor's Office did not return calls seeking comment.

According to Geary's page on Facebook, which he joined July 17, he is from Buckland and attended high school there.

"First time on Facebook trying to collect all the friends I can get. God loves you all!" Geary wrote Monday.