Kenai man faces charges for alleged desertion plot

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 jerzy.shedlock@peninsulaclarion.com.

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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