Testifying in his own defense Wednesday, Shawn Rogers denied shooting Brian Black in a Beluga tavern 2 1/2 years ago and denied ever saying the shooting was his fault.
Rogers is the 33-year-old Kenai man charged with the shooting death of Black, 43, of Beluga, in Fat Albert’s Tavern and Bunkhouse July 26, 2004.
During questioning by his attorney, Chuck Robinson, Rogers said he did not know Black and he did not shoot him.
Rogers said on the day of the shooting, he had accompanied his girlfriend, Kari Worth, to the tavern to help her open. She was slated to work that evening as the bartender.
He said he stayed at the bar about 30 minutes and left to go fishing by himself. He went to Threemile Creek and fished for 1 1/2 to 2 hours before returning to Threemile Creek Lodge, which was partly owned by Rogers’ father.
While fishing, Rogers said he had his .45-caliber Witness semiautomatic handgun in a side holster for personal protection. He said he saw a black bear sow and cub at the creek.
After fishing, he returned to the lodge and did some chores when the phone rang.
“It was Kari. She said she was closing (Fat Albert’s); ‘Come get me,’” Rogers said.
He said he drove to the bar and still had his gun with him. He remembered that three people from Tyonek were in the bar, and he thought some people from Chugach Electric were there as well.
In fact, he said he played a game of pool with Phil Rice, bought Chuck Thome and drink and had a conversation with Ron Thebeau.
All three testified earlier in the trial that they worked at Chugach.
Rogers said at one point, Thebeau seemed “edgy, angry,” and Rogers put his arm around him and kissed him, saying, “Chill out.”
“Everyone chuckled and that was it,” Rogers said, but he said from Thebeau’s reaction, Rogers did not assume Thebeau took it too lightly.
Thebeau had previously testified that Rogers was intoxicated and for no apparent reason, came up and kissed Thebeau once and tried to kiss him a second time. Thebeau said he told Rogers to go away.
Rogers testified that after seeing Thebeau’s reaction, he moved away on his own.
Rogers also said he had two brief encounters with the Tyonek threesome: the first time he was at the bar, they asked him to play darts, but he declined; when he returned from fishing, he asked them to play darts, but they declined.
They had testified that he was intoxicated and bothering them.
Rogers said after Kari announced last call, customers did not seem to be leaving and he asked her to give him his gun, which he had previously given to her to put behind the bar for safe keeping.
He said he was leaving and would come back for her.
However, he testified he was having trouble getting the gun into his holster, because it kept getting caught on the drawstring from his jacket.
He said he set the gun on his lap and was getting frustrated at not being able to holster the gun, while getting scared about having the gun out in the open in the tavern.
“I said some form of ‘F’ word, and I could hear Thebeau say my name not to me. I said, ‘Shut up and leave me alone.’
“I heard someone say, ‘You talkin’ to me?’ I said, ‘No.’
“I looked back down (toward the holster), I heard a bar stool sliding, and the next thing I knew, three people were running toward me,” Rogers said.
He recognized Thebeau, and now, since being in court, he knows the others were Black and Thome.
Whoever got to him first, checked him into the wall, he said, and he recalls the gun going off.
“I remember thinking ... I didn’t shoot my foot,” he said.
Rogers said the three people grabbed him, trying to get the gun, and he was trying to keep it away from them. Someone’s hand went down his outstretched arm and the gun went out of his hand.
“I went down. That’s all I remember,” he said.
The next thing, he said he remembered was taking a deep breath and being on his stomach on the floor with his hands and feet tied up.
“I’m not sure if I was in and out of consciousness ... confused,” he said.
He remembered being dragged across the barroom floor to an area near the pool table and seeing one of the Tyonek women Elsie Giles giving someone cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Rogers also said he remembered Giles was not performing CPR correctly.
“I said, ‘Let me up; I can help,’” he said.
After Alaska State Troopers arrived on scene from Kenai, Rogers said his hands and ankles were untied and he was handcuffed and taken to a downstairs room.
Robinson asked if he said it was his fault.
“No,” said Rogers.
“Did you ever say, ‘I’m sorry’?” asked Robinson.
“No,” said Rogers.
After being arrested and flown back to Kenai, Rogers said he told Trooper Michael Henry he wasn’t sure what happened; he got jumped; someone took his gun away; someone got shot; and now, he’s being blamed for it.
Before completing the defense’s case, Robinson asked a series of questions:
“Did you ever shoot Brian Black?”
“No,” said Rogers.
“Did you ever push your gun into his ribs and fire twice?”
“Did you ever bring your gun around like a roundhouse, stick it in his side and shoot him?”
“Did you ever form any intent to shoot him?”
As assistant district attorney Scot Leaders began his cross examination of Rogers, the defendant told him Thebeau and other men at the bar had been talking about him and pointing to his gun.
“I heard Ron Thebeau say my name, and I said, ‘Shut up,’” said Rogers.
“I wanted them to quit talking about me. The man was inciting a riot,” he said.
“Did the Tyonek people run for the doors (while) this riot was being incited?” asked Leaders.
“I don’t know what they were doing,” said Rogers.
Retired Anchorage Judge Larry Card, who is serving as judge pro-tem in the trial, said it would be a good place to stop listening to testimony for the day.
He instructed jurors to return today at 9 a.m. when Leaders is expected to resume questioning Rogers.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek @peninsulaclarion.com.
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