Crime & Courts

Anchorage man charged with murder, assault in Muldoon homicide

An Anchorage man was charged with murder and assault after an early morning shooting over an alleged botched drug deal left one man dead this week.

Christopher Birotte, 23, was charged with one count of second-degree murder and one count of second-degree assault stemming from the shooting in Muldoon on Tuesday.

Tiwan Marquis Johnson Jr., 19, was killed and another man was injured in the shooting related to an apparent drug deal gone wrong, according to a criminal complaint filed in Anchorage District Court on Friday.

[Police seek public tips in fatal shooting of 19-year-old in Muldoon]

Witness accounts in the complaint differ slightly on the events of the night. But after leaving an East Anchorage home, Johnson and another man ended up meeting up with Birotte in the parking lot of the Muldoon Brown Jug.

According to one of the witnesses interviewed by police, Johnson knew Birotte and was attempting to buy $40 worth of marijuana from him. After arriving at the Brown Jug parking lot to complete the transaction, Johnson became upset when he believed Birotte had shorted him by half. The witness told police that Johnson and Birotte began "wrestling" with each other before Johnson grabbed Birotte's bag, headed back to the car and attempted to flee.

According to surveillance footage police obtained from the parking lot, an unidentified man then chased the car and fired several rounds into the rear passenger side window before running out of the parking lot.

The complaint states that Johnson was shot in the head, while another man was shot four times but survived. Johnson was taken to Alaska Native Medical Center, where he died from his injury.

Police later found a backpack in the car with a pay stub belonging to Birotte.

Birotte appeared in a Saturday arraignment at the Anchorage jail wearing a yellow prison jumpsuit. He answered several questions with a "Yes, sir" and at one point raised his hand to ask a question of the judge that went unanswered.

Defense attorney Rex Butler entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of Birotte for both counts.

At least seven members of his family sat in courtroom Saturday. His mother, Eva Birotte, declined to comment on her son's case.

When Birotte's arraignment ended, he blew a kiss to his family and made a heart shape with his hands while he walked back into custody.

Tiwan Johnson's mother, Pauline Johnson, called in to the arraignment from California. She asked the judge to set a higher bail for Birotte.

"I don't want him to think it's OK," she told the judge. "And if everything is set low and everything is made easy for him — I'll never see my son again, ever, because of him. Because he couldn't deal with whatever his situation was or handled it in a better way."

['He wasn't raised to be a thug,' says aunt of Muldoon shooting victim]

After the arraignment, Butler pushed back against the series of events outlined in the criminal complaint. He told reporters that Birotte was robbed and attacked in the incident. He said Birotte claims to have a broken clavicle and that his client was "kicked and stomped" during the altercation.

"It wasn't just a simple taking; they beat the heck out of him," he said.

Butler noted that drug deals gone bad can often neutralize self-defense claims but that state law allows people to use deadly force to repel a robbery.

"There is no question that under Alaska's definition of deadly force, deadly force was used," he said. "But there's also no question, I think, and the video will bear it out, that there was a robbery here."

Birotte's bail was set at $250,000 plus a $10,000 cash performance bond along with a mandatory third-party custodian. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for next month.

Suzanna Caldwell

Suzanna Caldwell is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in 2017.