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Trial begins for Anchorage man accused of shooting car crash bystander

Jerzy Shedlock

Trial began Thursday in the state’s case against a 22-year-old Anchorage man accused of firing multiple shots at a Mountain View property manager trying to stop two men from towing away a wrecked car before police arrived.

Keng Her faces charges of assault and weapons misconduct. He appeared out of custody in Anchorage Superior Court, wearing a beige track jacket and blue jeans.

The state argues Her struck Mark Harms in the back and foot. Assistant district attorney Laura Dulic said one bullet hit Harms above the base of his spine and exited through his front torso.

An argument between Harms and Her resulted in the shooting, she said. On Sept. 29, 2013, at around 2 a.m., a caller told a police dispatcher a Honda Accord slammed into a dumpster in the area of North Hoyt Street and Parsons Avenue, coming to rest in front of a yellow stucco fourplex.

The driver of the wrecked Honda, which had also caused damage to another vehicle and a building, tried to peel out but hit a light pole. After that, the car wouldn't move. Police later identified the driver as Chuada Chang; he pleaded guilty in January to reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

The prosecutor said the sound of Chang’s car hitting the dumpster woke multiple residents, and at least two called the police. Chang called Her for help. Together, they tried to push the car free, Dulic said, but took off in Her’s Honda SUV after failing to move it.

They returned with a tow strap, according to Dulic. About 20 minutes had passed since the first call came in to Anchorage police, who had not yet arrived to investigate the initial crash.

Anchorage Police Department spokesperson Anita Shell said that at that time the bars were closing, and a crashed car with no occupants wasn’t considered a priority, according to an Anchorage Daily News story.

Neighbors watched the men attach the car to the tow strap, including Harms, who decided to confront them, Dulic said. He’s responsible for the building, she said.

“He asks them to stay put. ‘There’s police that are going to come, and we’ll handle this the right way,’ ” she said.

Words were exchanged, and Her attempted to punch Harms, but he blocked the blow, according to Dulic. The situation “seemingly diffused,” and the men piled back into the SUV and departed. But Her allegedly turned around in a driveway, drove back toward Harms and fired shots out the driver’s window.

Her fled immediately afterward, she said.

Dulic contended Her may have shot the victim to “show he’s a tough guy” or heal a bruised ego.

“Nothing makes a point quite like a bullet,” she said. “Nothing ends a conversation faster than someone shooting a gun. Nothing gives you the last word quite like a bullet.”

She said investigators found bullet shells on the floorboard of Her’s SUV, and the defendant admitted to owning the 9mm firearm used in the shooting and to being the driver.

Defense attorney Evan Chyun kept his opening statements brief. He said most of what the state argued was accurate, but there were holes in the state’s account of the confrontation between Harms and his client.

The state contended the situation calmed following Her’s blocked punch. Chyun argued Harms went back into his apartment, then came back outside sometime later ready for a fight.

Harms raised his arms and, according to Chyun, said, “Go ahead, I’m ready. I hope you know kung fu.” The attorney described Harms as a large man at around 6 feet 2 inches. Her is average to slightly less than average height.

People who had witnessed the crash had dispersed by that time, he said.

“When the shots were fired, no one is around during those crucial moments,” Chyun said.

Her’s trial is set to continue through next week. He turns 23 on Tuesday.