Man on life support after shooting, family says

Casey Grove
Bill Roth

With her son shot in the head Tuesday morning, and a machine still breathing for him that night at an Anchorage hospital, Jermaine Twiley's mother Dana wondered if her 22-year-old son would survive.

"He's stable, but they're saying it could go either way," Dana Twiley said by phone from Wisconsin. "They said if he does open his eyes, he'll still be a vegetable."

Her son had been listed in critical condition before surgery Tuesday, a police spokeswoman said. Detectives have charged Talon Draper, 19, with one felony count of first-degree assault in the shooting, which had brought police and crime scene investigators to an apartment complex in the 3400 block of Thompson Avenue a little after 1 a.m.

Draper has claimed he was trying to protect others when he allegedly shot Twiley, according to police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro.

About an hour before the shooting, police officers went to the apartment complex after calls about a fight between Twiley and a female, Castro said. The woman is Twiley's girlfriend, the mother of his child, Dana Twiley said. Draper was not one of the two people who called about the disturbance, Castro said.

Twiley and the woman refused to answer questions about their apparent altercation, Castro said. It was unclear at that point if either were hurt, she said.

"They wouldn't even let us come in to investigate or determine anything, and we were told to go away," Castro said. "There was nothing, essentially, at that point we could do."

Later, according to what Draper told police, he heard the fighting continue in the apartment next to his, Castro said. Draper said he grabbed a rifle, opened his front door and saw a man running away, the police spokeswoman said. The man was Twiley, she said.

"Draper told police he ordered the male to stop running because he feared for the safety of those involved in the domestic altercation," Castro wrote in a statement. "Draper told police he saw (Twiley) reach down with his hands and then he fired his rifle at Twiley, striking him in the head."

That claim -- that Twiley reached down -- is something detectives are still investigating, according to Slawomir Markiewicz, head of the Anchorage Police Department's Homicide Unit.

"Talon was in the doorway, and the victim was in the street," Markiewicz said. "We don't have any information that there was anyone close to (Twiley) at that time."

Someone who heard both the disturbance and the gunshot called police, Castro said. Medics took Twiley to a hospital, and officers took Draper into custody, she said.

"He was cooperative with police. Detectives conducted an interview with him," Castro said.

Several hours later, they charged Draper and took him to jail. He is held on $20,000 bail, Castro said. Draper was set to make an initial court appearance at the Anchorage jail on Wednesday.

In general, detectives will avoid filing charges in a shooting with clear evidence of self-defense, said Deputy District Attorney Clint Campion, a state prosecutor. If such a case went to trial -- and prosecutors could not disprove claims that the defendant acted to protect himself or herself or others -- it would likely result in a not guilty verdict, Campion said.

"If it looks like someone did act in self-defense, then the police, and probably with a recommendation from us, would say it's not appropriate to charge, because the person has a complete defense," Campion said. "One of the key words in the self-defense statute is that there has to be certain imminence. ... It's got to be necessary and it has to be a reasonable amount of force."

Campion said prosecutors have not made a final determination on what charges to pursue against Draper.

Police officers canvassed the neighborhood Tuesday afternoon looking for anyone who saw the shooting or Twiley's actions just before it, said Markiewicz, the homicide detective.

"They contacted some witnesses. I don't think there was any new light shed, necessarily," he said.

Twiley's mother, Dana, said his girlfriend told her Twiley was going for a walk to remove himself from the argument. Then the police arrived again and told the girlfriend she needed to go to the hospital.

Monyetta Hiley, Twiley's sister, said by phone from Chicago that Twiley is from Chicago and moved to Anchorage to be with the girlfriend and his child.

"That's the only reason he's up there. He don't know a soul up there," Hiley said. "It's so disturbing. It's crazy. I've been crying all day."

As far as Twiley's condition late Tuesday, Markiewicz said he had not heard from the hospital of any changes.

"It's certainly a very serious injury. We hope that he survives that," the detective said. "If he died, they would let us know, and that hasn't happened."

Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4343