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Kenai man faces charges for alleged desertion plot

Posted: September 6, 2012 - 8:54am  |  Updated: September 6, 2012 - 12:03pm

A 19-year-old Kenai man is being charged with third-degree misconduct involving weapons and tampering with physical evidence after allegedly convincing a friend to shoot him in the leg. 

Ian H. West reported concocting a plan with his 17-year-old friend because he did not want to return to the military. He also said the shooting was an unsuccessful suicide attempt, unbeknownst to the friend, according to an affidavit filed June 11 by Kenai police officer Ben Langham.

The Kenai District Attorney’s office attempted to charge West with first-degree assault, but the court denied its arguments. Prosecutors are still pursuing the lesser charges despite the Marines dropping West’s “deserter” status. 

On May 25, the Kenai Police Department reported the shooting. They also reported West and the 17-year-old shooter, who police apprehended, knew each other but gave no additional details. 

Police interviewed West and the friend; their stories matched. On May 22, West requested his friend shoot him in the leg. The defendant scratched the serial number off a 20-gauge shotgun. He told his friend where and when to shoot, as well as instructions to run and hide the shotgun. The plan occurred accordingly, Langham reported.  

West called the Police Department on May 29 and spoke with Langham about the shooting. He allegedly admitted concocting the shooting; he said he hatched the plan after a severe anxiety attack. 

Ian West is a private (first class) assigned to the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. 

As a result of the incident, West was charged with tampering with evidence and misconduct involving a weapon, both class C felonies. In Alaska, it is illegal to tamper with or remove serial numbers or to possess such items. 

West’s commanding officer issued a deserter warrant on July 3. According to an affidavit filed by West’s attorney Kevin Fitzgerald, the Police Department served the warrant on the morning of Aug. 1 and remanded West to Wildwood Correctional Complex in Kenai.

He previously had missed a June 28 arraignment for the two felony charges. West said he did not receive a summons. Contract workers generally handle the deliveries of summons. 

“My wife got hold of (the contracted employee), and they said they went by the house a couple times,” said Sandy West, Ian’s father. “He didn’t bother to call, I don’t think. And what do you mean you went by the house a couple times? Did you knock on the door? Ian was here on crutches, and sister was here helping out.” 

The state issued its own warrant, but it was quickly rejected in court. The court also deemed West was not a flight risk or danger to the public. The Police Department, Fitzgerald argues, failed to relay the court’s decision to the Marines, and the deserter warrant was issued. 

The defendant remained at Wildwood for more than two weeks due to the Marine-issued warrant, which served as a “detainer.” The state argued it was holding West in accordance with the military’s request. 

“Nobody confessed to the realities,” Sandy West said. “Everybody was handing the ball off to someone else.

“Ian sat in prison for 20 days while everyone played mumbly peg.”

Fitzgerald, however, argued his client’s detention was unconstitutional. West also faced a medical deadline, as injuries suffered during the shooting caused nerve damage in his leg, according to court records. 

The Marines have dropped the warrant. They informed West’s counsel and the court it intends to “administratively separate from Private West,” but may elect to initiate court-marital charges. It is unknown when and if it will decide to pursue charges.

West is no longer at Wildwood. He is currently Outside, processing out of the military, Sandy West said. 

A preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 7 at the Kenai Courthouse. 

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at

Editor’s note: A previous version of the above article contained an error. The Clarion initially reported the shooting occurred as the result of an altercation. The Kenai Police Department’s press release did not mention an altercation.

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IloveEeyore 09/06/12 - 10:37 am

Ok...just so I get this straight. This 19yr guy cooks up a plan to...bottom line...get out of the military. He has his friend shoot him in the leg...which I'm sure is costing those involved a lot in medical bills...not to mention the cost of the medics on scene. The Marines issue a warrant (much deserved)...he is arrested on that warrant...he misses his hearings for whatever reason...which costs the State money in legal fees. I'm not sure if Fitzgerald is a private attorney (sounds like) or a PD...either way more legal fees. And his parents seem to be upset that he spent 20 days in jail on his military detainer warrant. He is going to be dang lucky if he doesn't spend time in a military prison for his...desertion. He is an absolute disgrace to the Military. He signed up voluntarily (assuming) then has his friend shoot him in order to get out. What a coward! I feel bad for his family having to deal with all this. But I have absolutely no sympathy for someone who has absolutely no dignity, pride, courage or honor. I honestly hope the Military charges him and he has to serve time in a military prison. Then I hope when he gets done with that time he has State charges to face.

spwright 09/06/12 - 12:34 pm
Court Martial

Thur 9/6/12
I believe this USMC PFC IAN WEST should recieve a Official

That Court Martial would prove his Guilt or Innocence & provide answers as to Why He made such a decision.

& Yes IF PFC WEST is found Guilty of Desertion, He should be sentensed to Leavenworth.

The Marine Corp is taking The Easy Way Out here instead of following thru with a Court Martial.

SPW "Airborne"

jlmh 09/07/12 - 11:38 am
"They informed West’s counsel

*They informed West’s counsel and the court it intends to “administratively separate from Private West,” but may elect to initiate court-marital charges.* (quote)

What's a court-marital? Is it like a court-martial, except you have to get married instead of appearing before a military court?

spwright 09/07/12 - 02:02 pm

Fri 9/7/12
A Military Court Martial follows the Uniform Code of Military Justice which is the "Rule Book" for All of the Military.

It is the Court Trail with JAG Officers representing the Military & the Defendant. There are many layers of Justice, the most severe is a Article 32 & possible Death Sentense for Desertion. But that won't happen here. No One Died because of His Desertion.
The Court Martial will provide the Truth as to What Happened with USMC PFC IAN WEST & the self inflected Gun Shot Wound.
PFC West will be extremely Lucky IF all he receives is a DisHonorable Discharge instead of Prison time in Leavenworth. Leavenworth is Stuff Made of Urban Legend
& a Very Bad Place to Be.


jlmh 09/07/12 - 08:22 pm
I was referring to the

I was referring to the Clarion's spelling error (martial vs. marital), but thank you for the clarification.

Just saying...
Just saying... 09/09/12 - 02:04 am
Age and Innocence verses Patriotism

There is never a question when it comes to patriotism. I believe in the men and women who fight for our county, freedom, life, and liberty. I consider myself fortunate to be living in the United States of America.

Where I have a problem is having our “kids” who just come out of high school, full of vim and vigor, and short on reality, enlist in the military. These “kids” think they are mature and ready, but have no idea what the real world is like, until it is too late, like West.

Our kids, just a few weeks before graduating, could not clean their rooms, pick up their laundry, not to mention doing a load of laundry, “kids” who cannot buy a pack of cigarettes, nor purchase alcohol, (not that I condone that because I don’t), are now put into a boot camp environment to be trained to protect our freedom. Then realize, they made a mistake, they are not ready, and this is not what they want.

West’s action to go AWOL is a clear sign of immaturity, and now our military wants to court martial him! What West did was wrong but, a solution would be to sentence West to 4 years of college, and a requirement of attaining at minimum, a Bachelors degree, and give him a chance to do better.

He clearly made a decision that he was not ready for, and encouraged by others who allowed a “kid” to enlist. He does not deserve to be punished or jailed. I think he has suffered enough.

Just saying…..

spwright 09/09/12 - 09:24 am

Sun . 9/9/12
"Just Sayin" I request that You make the time to read the following in Today's Clarion :

Wounded Warrior Returns to Juneau

Story of USMC E O D Staff Sgt TOM McRAE

Your jaw will drop to the floor in disbelief as your read that story. Then Please Remember One of Our Very Own

PFC West will be Extremely Fortunate IF all he receives is a
Dishonorable Discharge from the Marine Corp.


radiokenai 09/12/12 - 09:57 am
The only word that comes to mind...

Is COWARD! It wouldn't hurt my feelings one bit if he packed up his pink colored tu-tu and deported himself to California to march in all the Rainbow parades..since he is NO longer welcome in Alaska, I am sure California will welcome him there!

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