Fairbanks man gets 10 years for shooting Fort Wainwright soldiers

Posted: Thursday, August 31, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A Fairbanks man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his part in the shooting of two Fort Wainwright soldiers last year.

Richard L. Riley, 29, who was convicted of eight counts of assault in May, was sentenced Tuesday. He will serve at least seven years in jail after he and another man fired shots that hit one soldier in the head and another in the neck.

''I find your conduct to be horrific and dangerous,'' Superior Court Judge Niesje Steinkruger said during sentencing.

Riley, acquaintance Edward F. Patalla and two juveniles went to the Fairbanks North Star Borough's shooting range to practice with .22-caliber firearms on July 23, according to Riley's testimony in court Tuesday.

After spending time at the range, Riley and his companions heard sounds coming from a long distance away. They hid at the edge of the woods and watched about 30 people gathered around a bonfire.

Riley admitted he fired the first shot with a .22 magnum pistol, but said he aimed at the ground. He said he also fired a subsequent shot.

Riley said Patalla, who was firing a rifle with a scope, was responsible for injuring the soldiers.

Christopher Hawkins was shot in the center of his forehead. The second hit Thomas Sanders, who was rushing to catch Hawkins as he fell. The bullet passed cleanly through his neck.

Hawkins still has the bullet lodged in his brain and suffers from loss of sight, hearing and some motor function.

Patalla, who turned state's evidence in April, was sentenced to five years on one count of first-degree assault last week.

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