Crime & Courts

Aniak man charged with murder was ‘angry and didn’t know why,’ according to court documents

An Aniak man charged with killing one person and wounding others began shooting in the Western Alaska village Sunday morning because he was "angry and didn't know why," according to charging documents in the case.

Joseph Patrick Yaska, 29, was charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder and assault, according to the criminal complaint filed Monday in Aniak District Court.

According to an affidavit, an Alaska state trooper arrived at the scene just after 3 a.m. Sunday. He found that Yaska had shot his girlfriend in the wrist and shoulder near their home in a triplex.

[1 dead, 1 wounded in Aniak shooting spree, troopers say]

The girlfriend told the trooper that Yaska had come home intoxicated after watching the Mayweather-McGregor boxing match with friends. Yaska began assaulting his girlfriend, according to the affidavit, hitting her on the head and kicking her. He then told her to run from the home as he grabbed an AK-47 rifle. As she ran to a nearby residence, Yaska shot her twice.

According to interviews with witnesses, Yaska was then seen on his elevated porch shooting at a white pickup in which Bruce Morgan, 24, was sitting. Yaska was also observed closer to the truck firing into the passenger side, where Morgan was sitting, the trooper wrote.

The trooper found Morgan dead, saying he appeared to have been shot several times.

Yaska also pointed his weapon at bystanders as they attempted to enter a neighboring triplex unit. According to the affidavit, Yaska walked up to the porch of the house and fired a single shot through the kitchen window. The bullet fragmented, striking a woman behind the ear and in the shoulder.

Yaska also punched another woman in the head, though when and where are not clear in the charging document.

The affidavit states that Yaska initially told troopers he didn't remember anything but later admitted to being upset with his girlfriend for "possibly drinking while watching the children."

He told troopers he remembered loading the gun several times and shooting at the truck and a person, but he didn't know who was in the truck.

Yaska told troopers he remembered going into his home and finding blood on the floor. He stated he didn't remember anything after that.

Yaska was detained by troopers in Aniak without incident. According to the affidavit, he was wearing only underwear and socks and had scratches on his face and neck, and bruised knuckles. He was transported to the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center and remained in custody Tuesday.

Suzanna Caldwell

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