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Juneau man charged with eight felonies for Friday shooting

Posted: December 11, 2013 - 1:03am
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James Depasquale, 44, appears in Juneau District Court on Tuesday on eight felony charges in connection to a shooting at the Coho Park Apartments Friday morning.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
James Depasquale, 44, appears in Juneau District Court on Tuesday on eight felony charges in connection to a shooting at the Coho Park Apartments Friday morning.

A 44-year-old man who was shot twice during alleged drug activity has been charged with eight felonies in connection to the Friday shooting at the Coho Park Apartments in the Mendenhall Valley, according to prosecutors with the District Attorney’s office.

Assistant District Attorney Amy Williams said James Depasquale III is facing three assault charges, two weapons and drug misconduct charges and tampering with physical evidence. A police investigation revealed he tried to kill another man during a confrontation over heroin. The other man, 24-year-old Jerall N. Torres, claims he shot Depasquale in self defense.

Depasquale, Torres and a third defendant were all arrested a day after the shooting, and made their first public court appearance Tuesday in Juneau District Court.

Although Torres is the alleged shooter and is charged with two felony offenses, prosecutors are centering their case around Depasquale, given allegations that he was peddling illegal narcotics and threatened Torres for not selling heroin he gave him.

“In a recorded telephone call between Depasquale and Torres, Depasquale stated that he had confronted Torres because Torres had not paid him for the drugs that Depasquale gave him to sell,” Williams wrote in an affidavit. “Depasquale said he thought Torres was avoiding him. Depasquale said he pointed a gun at Torres but never fired the gun. Depasquale said he tried to shoot Torres as Torres was pulling away but that when he pulled the trigger the gun did not fire.”

Police found Depasquale at the scene of the shooting, a low-income apartment complex on Amalga Drive, shortly after midnight Friday. He was bleeding and in need of aid. He was taken to the hospital to be treated for a gunshot wound to the shoulder and another to the wrist and was released within seven hours.

In court Tuesday, Depasquale appeared out of it and could barely keep his eyes open. When asked to “please rise” for the judge, Depasquale was the only person in the courtroom who remain seated.

Judge Keith Levy continued Depasquale’s bail at $100,000, half performance bond, half appearance bond. A magistrate previously set bail at that amount during a hearing over the weekend that was closed to the public.

Williams argued for the high bail based on the seriousness of the case and Depasquale’s out-of-state criminal history. Williams said in court Depasquale has a criminal history in Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Washington and California.

In Alaska, electronic court records show Depasquale only has one prior conviction for a misdemeanor. The records show he was charged in July of this year with felony assault for causing injury with a weapon, but he pleaded guilty to the reduced misdemeanor offense. In connection to that same case, prosecutors filed a petition to revoke his probation on Dec. 3, which would be three days prior to the Dec. 6 Coho Apartments shooting. That probation violation charge is still pending.

In contrast to Depasquale’s high bail amount, Torres is being held on $10,000 bail. A third defendant, 26-year-old Amanda M. Phillips, whose role in the shooting was incidental, is being held on $1,000 bail.

Phillips is accused of hiding the gun that Depasquale used to threaten and hit Torres. Police later located it under the stairs of one of the apartments. She’s charged with tampering with physical evidence, a felony offense.

The three defendants were escorted into Levy’s courtroom separately and not seated next to one another, a “good idea,” one of their attorneys whispered to a court security officer. Each were in shackles and wearing Lemon Creek Correctional Center inmate attire. Attorneys from the Public Defender Agency and the Office of Public Advocacy were appointed to represent them.

The judge scheduled the trio to next appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Dec. 17. That hearing will be vacated if an indictment is issued by a grand jury before then. The case will then be re-opened in the Juneau Superior Court, which handles felonies.

While no one was killed in the Coho Apartments shooting, it sparked a sequence of events that dominated the police department’s attention on Friday, including a false report of a kidnapping and a shootout on Egan Drive. Police say their investigation is still ongoing and more charges are forthcoming.

Court documents made available Tuesday revealed more about the second, related shooting on Egan Drive, and more clearly defined the scope of the crimes.

According to the charging documents, Torres and Phillips fled the scene separately immediately following the Coho Apartments shooting and met up at the ferry terminal. An affidavit states Phillips then tried to facilitate a reconciliatory meeting between Torres and Kenneth Ketah, a man who accompanied Depasquale in confronting Torres at the Coho Apartments.

Torres drove Phillips and another passenger, who is unnamed in court documents, to the Breakwater Inn to talk with Ketah, but it did not go well.

“Phillips stated that Ketah started threatening her and told her that they would not stop until Torres was dead,” an affidavit states. “Phillips then left the Breakwater and rejoined Torres in the Neon.”

They left the hotel and were driving on Egan Drive outbound when Torres saw a silver Dodge Intrepid pull up beside him. Torres told police he recognized a person known as “Chunk” — identified in the affidavit as Stephen Thomas — in the driver’s seat and Ketah in the passenger seat, the affidavit states.

Torres reported to police that Thomas and Ketah had the windows down and were pointing handguns at them. The Intrepid pulled in front of their Neon and started to brake. When the Intrepid pulled up beside them again, Torres said they fired six gunshots. In response, Torres admitted to police that he rolled his window down and fired “three or four gunshots from his moving vehicle back at the Intrepid,” the affidavit reads.

Torres was charged with first-degree weapons misconduct for his role in the second shooting, a class ‘A’ felony that can be punishable by up to 20 years in prison. He is also charged with second-degree drug misconduct, another class ‘A’ felony, for possessing heroin with intent to deliver.

Police said no one was injured in the second shooting. It went unreported at first since no one reported hearing shots fired. Police said they learned of it through their investigation, likely after they located Torres and Phillips driving around in the same Neon about 8:12 a.m. Friday. Police later shut down Egan Drive for about an hour on Friday afternoon to search for evidence from the shooting.

The police originally were unsuccessful in locating Torres and Phillips after the first Coho Apartments shooting. The police department heightened their search efforts when they received a report, later revealed to be false, from a woman who claimed Torres kidnapped her. She claimed she had been held captive at gunpoint and escaped while he was sleeping. The Juneau Police Department later announced the woman was voluntarily involved with both Torres and Phillips. Police indicated it’s possible the woman, whose name has not been released, could be charged with filing a false police report.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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