Lawyers in the Shawn Rogers murder trial Tuesday continued to painstakingly extract details for hours of a Beluga barroom shooting that lasted just seconds and left one patron dead in July 2004.
Rogers is the 33-year-old Kenai man charged with the shooting death of Brian Black, 43, of Beluga, in Fat Albert’s Tavern and Bunkhouse in Beluga.
A number of witnesses already have testified, including coworkers of Black’s from the Chugach Electric power plant in Beluga and some Native Alaskans from the village of Tyonek.
Most have related a verbal exchange taking place between Black and Rogers moments before Black moved toward Rogers, who allegedly had pointed a loaded .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol at him.
Witnesses who have testified so far agree two shots were fired and Black fell to the tavern floor, dead.
During opening statements, assistant district attorney Scot Leaders said Rogers intended to shoot Black and, in fact, did. Defense attorney Chuck Robinson suggested to the jury of 11 women and three men that there may have been a struggle, the gun went off and one bullet fatally struck Black.
Cornell Constantine told the jury he went to Fat Albert’s at around 8 p.m. with his girlfriend, Cassandra “Sandy” Trenton, and his cousin, Elsie Standifer, and as the night went on, Rogers seemed to be irritated that bartender Kari Worth was spending a good deal of time on the phone.
Earlier the jury heard that Rogers accompanied Worth to the bar when she opened it for the owner that day.
At around closing time, Constantine said he was exiting the restroom when he heard what he thought was a pool cue stick falling to the floor ... then heard the cracking sound a second time.
“I looked toward the pool table, then looked to the left and saw Hawkeye starting to fall,” Constantine said.
“We all ran over and we started rescue breathing,” he said.
While being cross examined by Eric Derleth, a lawyer assisting Robinson, Constantine said he “never actually saw a gun or muzzle flash.”
One state witness, Joe Caraway, a medic called to respond to the shooting from the Chugach Electric plant where he worked, surprised prosecution and defense attorneys when he said he had heard Rogers say, “I’ve wrecked a lot of families.”
About an hour after the shooting, Alaska State Troopers arrived on scene from the Kenai Peninsula and asked several medics to keep an eye on Rogers, who had been handcuffed and had been bound with belts around his ankles, to be sure he did not injure himself or others.
During that time, Caraway said Rogers appeared “stressed out, drunk, intoxicated,” and was mumbling.
“He asked if we could take the handcuffs off,” Caraway said.
“He said, ‘I can go up and help,’” Caraway said of Rogers’ statement.
When quizzed further about the wrecking of families statement, Caraway admitted he had not said that to troopers or defense investigators until now.
“I remember him saying he wrecked a lot of families; I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, he wrecked mine somewhat,’” said Caraway, who had been a coworker and friend of Black’s.
Robinson suggested Caraway had not said anything earlier about the wrecking families statement and said it in front of the jury now because he wanted to help his friend.
Caraway denied that, saying the memory came to him last week while he was alone out on his trap line across the inlet.
The defense is slated to cross examine another friend and coworker, Ron Thebeau, as the trial resumes today.
Thebeau, who also was in the bar the night of the shooting, told the jury what he remembered of the incident Tuesday.
He said he remembered the bartender, Worth, jumping over the bar saying, “It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault. You don’t understand.”
Out of the presence of the jury, Robinson told the court he expected Thebeau to “dramatically change his story.”
Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek @peninsulaclarion.com.
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