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Crime & Courts

Charges: Selawik man told troopers he didn't remember firing fatal shots

  • Author: Jerzy Shedlock
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published July 8, 2015

The murder charges against Christopher Cleveland, accused of killing another man in the Northwest Alaska village of Selawik Monday, allege he and several others drank into the early morning hours before he opened fire on multiple people, including a Selawik village police officer.

Cleveland, 39, has been charged with six felonies, including first- and second-degree murder, attempted murder, assault and burglary.

Troopers reported Monday that a person, later identified as Wade Cleveland, was found dead outside on a boardwalk in the village, home to about 900 Alaskans.

Troopers have said the two men aren't related.

The charges say Christopher Cleveland admitted firing his weapon at multiple people in the village, and when he used up all his .22 rifle ammo, he broke into a local store and tried to steal more, the charges say.

A former village police officer called troopers in the regional hub community of Kotzebue shortly after 4:30 a.m., alleging Christopher Cleveland shot and killed Wade Cleveland, according the charges.

Christopher Cleveland holed up inside his home, troopers reported, but he surrendered around 2:30 p.m. Monday.

VPO Brent Norton previously told Alaska Dispatch News he found Wade Cleveland's body on the boardwalk early that morning, and when he tried to move it, Christopher Cleveland fired about 10 rounds in his direction.

Norton fled the gunfire by crawling on the ground. He returned later with help and was able to put Wade Cleveland's body on an ATV. Villagers tried to save the victim but were unsuccessful, the VPO told troopers.

The charges say Norton removed a woman from Christopher Cleveland's home at about 2 a.m. She was kept at the local police station for about two hours, where the officer observed bruises and scratches on her arms, according to the charges.

When troopers interviewed Christopher Cleveland shortly after his arrest, he stated he and several others were drinking whiskey and homebrew when a woman -- whose name is redacted -- got mad and hit him.

Christopher said he "snapped" after being struck, according to the charges.

"I was about to hit her when Wade stepped up and said I should hit a man," the charges paraphrase Christopher as saying.

Christopher then punched Wade but was prevented from attacking further as others held him back; he retrieved his rifle "to shoot everyone," the charges say. He told troopers he remembered shooting at people, including some who were on the bridge near the boardwalk, but didn't remember who they were, the charges say.

"I don't remember shooting Wade," he told troopers.

Continuing his account, Christopher Cleveland said when he couldn't find extra bullets in the shop he'd broken into, he stole cigarettes and left.

Troopers later retrieved the .22 rifle, which had been broken into pieces out of anger, according to the charges. They also seized a carton of cigarettes and an ax with a broken handle.

Online court records show Christopher Cleveland was appointed a public defender at an initial appearance at the Kotzebue Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon.

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