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Dave Neutzel and Nick Ponzetti with Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL) discuss plans for tomorrow’s Annual Wildlife Cruise (1:30 – 4:30 PM Sat May 18, advance tickets $45 at Old Harbor Books). Also, the Red Dirt BBQ (6-10 PM Tue May 21, Bayview Pub, advance tickets $15 Old Harbor Books/$20 at the door), benefits Autism Speaks.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 31st in King County Superior Court for a Seattle-area man convicted of the 2012 murder of 22-year-old Ashton Reyes of Juneau.
A King County jury earlier this month found Jacob Andrew Mommer guilty of first degree murder and second degree assault, while armed with a deadly weapon.
“Under Washington law we can add a firearm enhancement, which is what we did and that’s what the jury came back with on both the assault as well as the murder charge,” said Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County prosecutors’ office.
Donohoe said Mommer’s sentence does not allow parole.
“His standard sentence range for both charges, which include the firearm allegations, is 357 to 443 months in prison, which is about 30 to 37 years,” he said.
Reyes was shot on Jan. 3, 2012 in a Subway parking lot at 9305 Rainier Avenue South, during what police described as a drug sale.
Court documents indicate Mommer and another individual allegedly attempted to rob Reyes and her boyfriend, Jason Rose, who were sitting in her car. Police said Rose had arranged to meet Mommer to sell him an ounce of marijuana.
Rose told police and said he testified during the trial that he and Reyes were ambushed as Mommer and the other man robbed them at gunpoint. Rose said he gave them Reyes’ purse and left the vehicle then gunfire erupted. He was struck in the buttocks as he fled across the street. Police found Reyes sprawled across the front seat of her car with a gunshot wound to her torso. She died a short time later at Harborview Medical Center.
Police said Reyes was not a participant in the crimes.
Mommer is 20 years old. He is being held on $1-million bail in the King County Jail until his sentencing, according to the prosecuting attorney’s office.
Donohoe said the second man allegedly involved in the incident has not been identified and the investigation continues.
Reyes was a 2008 graduate of Juneau’s Yaakoosge’ Daakahidi Alternative High School, and daughter of Rick Reyes of Juneau and Terri Reyes of Oregon.
In November 2011, Ashton Reyes graduated from Everett Community College and was a registered dental assistant.
It’s been more than 70 years since Unalaska came under attack during World War II, but you don’t have to look hard to find the remnants. The community is littered with old gunnery installations, battered Quonset huts and bunkers – some of which are being preserved for posterity.
But there’s history, and then there’s hazard, and the shells and bombs that keep washing up on Unalaska’s shores fall somewhere in between.
Out on a quiet beach at the edge of the island, Unalaska’s shooting range is where local gun owners go for target practice.
But the team of Army and Air Force munitions experts that have converged on the range aren’t here to practice anything.
They’ve flown in just to examine a mysterious shell that may date back to World War II.
“Let’s go ahead and take a couple minutes and try to get a quick ID,” Air Force Sgt. Luke Mefford said.
He’s the head of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.
The EOD team has come out to Unalaska, Adak and other Aleutian communities over the years to identify and safely destroy leftover munitions from the war.
Usually, these items get picked up beachcombers or fishermen. Even though they’ve have been swimming in salt water for decades, that doesn’t mean these they’re inert.
Army Sgt. Joe Potocki explains:
Potocki: “Some old explosives use, like, nitroglycerin which is highly sensitive. Being so old, not in the state it’s supposed to be in? You mess around with it, it could definitely go off.”
Rosenthal: “That’s scary!”
Potocki: “It is. That’s why we’re around – it’s why we’ve got a job.”
The job that brought them to Unalaska this time was an effort at historical preservation – gone wrong.
The Ounalashka Corporation runs the World War II museum. Their manager, Dave Gregory, says he was out at lunch one day when an employee of a local fish plant dropped off a donation.
“It was about – oh, what – 20 inches long, six inches at the base. And then it kind of tapered down. Kind of a greenish, dirty color I guess,” Gregory said.
Gregory is no stranger to ordnance. He says the museum does like to collect small pieces, to put in its displays. They add some color.
This shell was different, though. It was heavier and bigger than anything Gregory had seen, it didn’t seem like a good thing to keep around. So he called his friends at public safety. They took custody of the shell, and contacted the EOD team for disposal.
In Unalaska, the team is coping with miserable weather. They take turns snapping photos on the windy, snowy beach. One by one, they dart into a running fire truck for warmth while they consult munitions manuals.
Finally, Sgt. Mefford walks up. They have an ID.
“It’s an artillery round, more than likely fired from a naval ship out in the water somewhere,” Mefford said. “Either for target practice, depending on the exact time period, it may have been used against enemy actions.”
Mefford says he can’t share any more information than that, because the rest is classified.
“I can’t really give you specifics on it, just due to our disclosure rules on it,” he said.
The team wastes no time setting up the blast site.
“Are we gonna have enough antenna to get up on top of this, Scotty?,” Mefford asked.
“Yeah we should, because those caps,” Scott Rice, from the U.S. Air Force, said.
They pack the shell in a hole, and cover it with about 6 pounds of C4, a plastic explosive. They poke in some blasting caps, which are tuned into a remote control.
Once it’s set up, we’re directed to take cover several hundred yards away, behind two gravel berms. We’re waiting for the remote control to warm up, when the team asks me if I want to be the one to set off the explosives.
Rosenthal: “Can I?”
Rice: “Yeah, absolutely! It’ll be ready to go in about 30 seconds.”
Mefford: “We’re not doing it yet. We’re gonna let him set his camera up and then give him the go-ahead.”
While we wait for fire chief Abner Hoage to set up his video camera, I get some basic instructions.
Rice: “Alright, so when we get ready to fire this thing, under this cover is one fire button. You just get ready to press and hold one of them, and then press and hold the other. There will be a two second delay and the shot will go off.”
Potocki: “Do you want to tell her what she has to yell?”
Rice: “Ha, oh yeah. Before you set that off, you have to yell fire in the hole three times as loud as you can. Once forward, once off to your left, once off to your right.”
Air Force Sgt. Scott Rice and I trade. He takes my microphone and recorder, and I take his remote detonator.
Without further ado:
Rosenthal: “FIRE IN THE HOLE, FIRE IN THE HOLE, FIRE IN THE HOLE.”
Rice: “Hold it up nice and high! There you go.”
Rosenthal: “Oh whoa! That is a giant plume of smoke. Whoa. That’s a rush.”
Bits of shrapnel rain through the air – some of them even flying past the berms, carried by the high winds.
Once the dust settles, the team tells me they like to let visitors detonate the explosives when they’re working in the field.
Rosenthal: “Well, thanks for letting me do that, it was really fun.”
Rice: “Alright, we’re good to go. We can go and check it out.”
All that’s left of the shell, is a 4-foot round hole. They measure it and pack up their equipment pretty fast.
Rice: “Alright well, that’s fun.”
Mefford: “That’s Jenga.”
JBER Pilot: “I know the aftermath isn’t as exciting. There’s a hole in the ground!”
The team heads back to the Unalaska fire house for a quick debrief. I ask if any of them thought about the history of the shell before they blew it up, and they say they did.
Mefford: “It’s just neat to come across something your granddad or great-uncle or whatever might have shot 70 years ago.”
Christopher McDonald, US Army: “Probably looked a lot better, though.”
Mefford: “Yeah, probably shinier back then.”
The EOD team is pretty sure that ordnance will keep washing up in Unalaska for a while.
That’s why, when it it’s time for the team to fly back to their base in Anchorage, saying “see you later” seems like a more appropriate than saying, “goodbye.”
A new, smaller Sealaska land-selection measure faces opposition from the federal government.
The legislation would transfer 3,600 acres of the Tongass National Forest to the Southeast-based regional Native corporation.
Sealaska’s timberlands have been logged of much of their harvestable trees. Officials say the acreage will keep timber operations going.
At a Congressional hearing Thursday, U.S. Forest Service official Jim Peña objected to a requirement to transfer the land within 60 days of passage.
“These two parcels would be conveyed without the carefully negotiated replaced to special use authorizations and public access that many stakeholders view as essential,” Peña said.
Peña spoke before the House Committee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs. The bill’s author, Alaska Congressman Don Young, chairs that panel.
The acreage is also part of a much larger measure that would transfer about 70,000 acres to Sealaska. (Scroll down to read earlier reports on both bills.)
That bill was also before the committee.
Young said it’s a compromise. (Read the larger bill.)
“First introduced over six years ago, this bill has undergone an extensive vetting process throughout the region. It has resulted in meaningful changes, such as providing for continued public access to lands, and modified certain lands among them,” he said.
The Forest Service’s Peña said the larger measure is much improved. But he wants further changes before the administration lends its support.
Southeast hunting guide Jimmie Rosenbruch spoke for sportsmen’s groups opposing the land transfers.
He said Sealaska’s logging will reduce access, as well as wildlife numbers.
“It’s kind of Sealaska to offer access for guides to utilize these lands for a 10-year period after their Forest Service permit expires. (But) I don’t know there will be much benefit. Having access to clearcut areas wouldn’t be worth anything. There’s no wildlife there. They are D-O-N-E … finished,” Rosenbruch said.
Last year’s version of Young’s bill passed the House, but not the Senate.
And the Senate’s latest version, sponsored by Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, has undergone more negotiation and changes.
Sealaska board member Bryon Mallott said that measure is more likely to be the final legislative vehicle.
But he prefers the House version.
“In my personal judgment, there is more equity and justice in the House bill. But I also know from long, long experience, that what the Native community can easily and passionately feel is equity and justice for others is often very hard to ultimately make possible,” Mallott said.
Young’s Sealaska bills now head to the full House Resources Committee. If either passes, it will go to the House floor for a full vote.
It would most likely be packaged with other legislation. That’s what happened last year.
Read earlier reports on the legislation:
The White House releases comparative cost information for medical procedures conducted by hospitals all over the country. Between Benghazi, the IRS misbehavior, and finally the Justice Department digging into the Associated Press phone records, the Obama Administration is awash in controversy. A story involving a 57 year-old Southwest Alaska woman, who died from too much home brew, illustrates Alaskans’ struggle with alcohol. Taking a closer look at the Obama Administration’s National Strategy for the Arctic Region. Senator Lisa Murkowski returns from a meeting of the Arctic Council in Sweden. An August 2011 plane crash west of McGrath tells a powerful, painful story of death and survival. What the state is doing to stop Medicaid fraud? Musher Jake Berkowitz is fighting to keep a sled dog alive after it mauled a child last week.
HOST: Michael Carey
- Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch
- Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News
- Peter Granitz, Alaska Public Radio Network
KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, May 17 at 2:00 p.m. and May 18 at 6:00 p.m.
Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 18 at 5:00 p.m.
After years of research, an animal scientist looking for ways to keep inflammation down in cattle came up with a novel approach: feed them flax. The flax in their food helps keep animals healthy and has an added benefit for people who later eat their meat: omega-3 enriched beef.