Teen charged in fatal accidental shooting

Anchorage youth put on trial for murder, manslaughter

Posted: Sunday, June 21, 2009

ANCHORAGE - A 16-year-old Anchorage boy who accidentally fired a shot that killed a friend has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.

James Trueblood Jr. was charged as an adult in the death March 5 of 15-year-old Brenton Buckmaster.

The charges say the Service High School student engaged in conduct that caused Buckmaster's death "under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to the value of human life."

"It wasn't intentional," said Detective Sgt. Slawomir Markiewicz. "He's not charged like with first-degree murder, but of course there was an incident that cost a young boy his life."

According to an affidavit filed in court by homicide Detective Mark Huelskoetter, Trueblood and his father, James Trueblood Sr., on the day of the shooting went to a gun shop and traded an old .32-caliber pistol and cash for a .357 Colt Lawman revolver.

Back at home, Buckmaster and another friend went to the younger Trueblood's bedroom to see the gun. All three handled the unloaded weapon.

According to the charges, the friends went back to the living room to play video games and Trueblood went to his father's bedroom.

There was no .357 ammunition in the home, but he found American Eagle .38 special rounds, which fit a .357 revolver. Trueblood Sr., who was in his bedroom watching TV, told police he saw his son loading and unloading the revolver. He said he did not know what his son did with the ammunition when his son left the room.

The boy told police he thought the weapon was unloaded when he returned to the living room.

Buckmaster was lying on the couch as the other friend played a video game. Trueblood Jr. told police he leaned over the back of the couch, gun in hand, only inches from Buckmaster's back.

According to the charges, Trueblood repeatedly cocked and uncocked the gun, pulling the hammer back, then pulling the trigger with his thumb holding the hammer to ease it down.

"He said that the last time he hit the trigger the gun went off. He said it was a total surprise," Huelskoetter said in the affidavit. "(Buckmaster) said, 'What the (expletive)?' then fell to the ground. James Trueblood Jr. put the gun on the kitchen table and got a towel to stop the bleeding."

The youth's father ran out to find "pandemonium" unfolding and called 911, the charges say.

The .38-caliber bullet pierced Buckmaster's left side, hit his heart and both lungs, and exited his right side. The round went through the couch cushions and lodged in the floor. Buckmaster was pronounced dead at Alaska Native Medical Center.

"It's an all-around tragedy for both sides," Trueblood Sr. said Thursday. "They were best of friends. You know, they never had an argument. Brenton was always welcome here. He spent a lot of time here and we're all deeply saddened and, you know, destroyed by this."

Trueblood Jr. was arrested Wednesday and released on $2,500 bail to his father's custody.

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