Defense quizzes trooper

Posted: Thursday, March 01, 2007

One of the principal investigators in the 2004 Beluga tavern homicide appeared unflappable as Shawn Rogers’ defense attorney hammered away at the state’s investigation for the third day this week.

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, July 26, 2004.

Defense attorney Chuck Robinson has suggested in front of the Kenai jury that Alaska State Troopers quickly jumped to the conclusion his client was guilty, resulting in a less than complete investigation of the fatal shooting.

Witnesses who testified earlier in the trial said Black and Rogers exchanged words at the bar, Rogers pulled a loaded .45-caliber handgun and pointed it at Black, Black went and confronted Rogers, the gun went off twice and Black fell to the floor dead.

The defense has argued the gun went off during a struggle.

Only one witness told troopers he actually saw Rogers stick the gun in Black’s side, one witness said he saw one muzzle flash and the reflection off a rear wall of a second muzzle flash and several witnesses said they heard gunshots, but did not see the shooting.

All the witnesses, except the bartender, Kari Worth, who is also Rogers’ girlfriend, have said they were drinking prior to the shooting, which occurred just before closing time.

Alaska Bureau of Investigation Sgt. Dane Gilmore, who was one of the first law enforcement officers to be flown to the crime scene from the Kenai Peninsula on the night of the shooting, testified Tuesday that he interviewed several witnesses at the bar; effected the arrest of Rogers, who had been detained by bar patrons before troopers arrived; and assisted in processing physical evidence from the scene.

One patron had said he followed right behind Black as he confronted Rogers, took Rogers to the floor and held him while his wrists and ankles were tied with patrons’ belts.

Another said he had picked up the gun and took it out of the barroom, placing atop an unmounted framed door in the tavern entrance way out of reach of others.

“You were told by Mr. (Chuck) Thome that he took the gun from Rogers,” Robinson said to Gilmore on Wed-nesday.

“That’s inconsistent with what Mr. (Ron) Thebeau said about picking up the gun off the floor,” said Robinson, phrasing the statement as a question.

“I don’t see that as being inconsistent,” Gilmore said. “Thome didn’t say he disarmed Rogers.”

Robinson also pointed to an inconsistent statement made by another patron, Phil Rice, in August 2004. According to Robinson, Rice said he had seen Thebeau “in the mix,” Rice went out of the bar and then heard a second shot.

All other witnesses who said two shots were fired have put the shots as coming within a second or two of each other.

“What did you do to clear up that inconsistency?” asked Robinson.

Gilmore said he was not involved with the investigation the month after the shooting occurred, but later said he probably would have done a follow-up interview with Rice.

Robinson also asked Gilmore if the decision to arrest Rogers for first-degree murder was based on Thome’s statements.

Assistant district attorney Scot Leaders asked Gilmore later to explain his response.

“It was part of the decision to arrest Mr. Rogers,” Gilmore said.

“Mr. Thome seemed to have the most detailed account of what happened and it was consistent with what other people said and what I determined from the scene,” he said.

“Did you have anyone protest that that person should not be arrested?” asked Leaders.

“No,” said Gilmore.

Robinson later asked Gilmore what he meant.

“I didn’t hear anyone say, ‘You got the wrong guy,’” Gilmore said.

Testimony from state Crime Detection Laboratory technicians is expected to resume at 8:30 this morning.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek

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