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Crime & Courts

Shooting that injured an Anchorage toddler in her home was a case of road rage, according to charges

Anchorage police investigate a shooting after people in two moving vehicles fired shots at each other in Fairview on May 21. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Anchorage police have arrested two men involved in what they say was a road-rage shooting in May that injured a toddler while she was in her home in the city's Fairview neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the man who fired the bullet that slammed through the toddler's arm, Rodger Manuel Brito, 23, has fled the country, according to a complaint filed with Alaska District Court in Anchorage on Thursday.

Brito is thought to be in the Dominican Republic, where authorities believe he is from, said Kevin Bergt, an attorney for the state.

"We're still looking for him," Bergt said Friday.

On Thursday, Anchorage police arrested Argenis Guzman, 26, who drove the Toyota Camry as Brito fired a handgun, Bergt said.

Later that day, they arrested David Matthew Freeman, 26, who appears to have started the shooting by firing his own handgun from his Dodge Ram truck, according to the complaint.

The men are charged with felony first-degree charges of assault and weapons misconduct, among others, according to the complaints against them.

The 2-year-old, struck while in her family's apartment, has been identified by her family as Kapuaokalani "Kapua" Murphy.

She is recovering, Bergt said. The bullet shattered her scapula but it's believed she won't ever regain the full use of her arm, he said.

Kuulei Steele holds her two-year-old daughter Kapua Murphy in May after the child was shot in their Fairview home. (Bill Roth / ADN)

After the Monday afternoon shooting on May 21, police pleaded with the public for details.

Witness reports of several shots fired near Hyder Street, between Ninth and 11th avenues, played a large role in the investigation, along with surveillance video.

A misstep by Guzman provided a pivotal clue.

The incident appears to have started after the vehicles pulled alongside each other heading north on the Seward Highway, at 36th Avenue, according to the complaint.

After the shooting, police stopped Freeman's Ram truck. They found a box of bullets in the center console. After getting a search warrant, they found a 9mm spent shell casing in the front cab area along with handgun magazines and ammunition, the complaint said.

Freeman told investigators he heard gunshots after people in the Camry shouted at him and chased his truck north for unknown reasons. But Freeman also made "inconsistent" statements about the location and actions of the Camry, the complaint says.

During an interview Wednesday, Guzman told police that the shooting started after one of his four passengers gave Freeman a thumbs-down and told him his truck was too loud.

In response, Freeman reached into the rear seat of his truck,  pulled out a semi-automatic handgun and sat it beside him, the complaint against Guzman says.

At Ninth Avenue, after the Seward Highway turns into Ingra Street, the passengers in the Camry began talking to Freeman, Guzman said. Freeman unexpectedly fired into the Camry's left rear door, just missing the three passengers in the back seat.

Guzman said he chased after the truck as it headed south on Hyder Street, with Brito firing several rounds at the Dodge truck until they lost track of it.

Surveillance video helped police identify the vehicles involved, and track down the truck and Freeman.

About three hours after the shooting, Guzman reported to police that his Camry was stolen. Police found it more than a week later at the Elks Lodge in Eagle River, with a door and window missing.

Guzman's cellphone records for May 21, obtained by police, put his phone at the scene of the shooting. It showed he was also near the lodge before Guzman reported his car stolen.

Guzman admitted ditching his car in Eagle River, and reporting it stolen to cover up the shooting, the complaint says.

That led to another charge against Guzman, tampering with physical evidence.

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