Highway shooter accepts plea agreement

An Anchor Point woman charged with attempted murder in a July 2012 Sterling Highway shooting involving an Alaska Wildlife Trooper pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of assault in the third degree, as well as other charges, at a change of plea hearing in Superior Court at the Kenai Courthouse on June 26.

Tonee Walker, 59, pleaded guilty telephonically from Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River to the charge of third-degree assault instead of first-degree attempted murder, as well as a second third-degree assault charge — both Class C felonies. She also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and fourth-degree misconduct involving weapons, both Class A misdemeanor charges. A misdemeanor reckless driving charge was dismissed.

Walker agreed to three aggravators — C6, three or more victims; 10, most serious and 13, conduct directed at a police officer.

The shooting shut down traffic near Mile 147 Sterling Highway for about five hours on July 15, stranding about 200 cars and motorhomes in both directions. After forcing other cars off the road, Walker shot at Wildlife Trooper Trent Chwialkowski, who returned fire and hit her. Walker stopped and troopers and police surrounded her car. Walker gave up after about 30 minutes. 

The plea agreement calls for a sentence of 12 years with 8 years, 11 months suspended. She will serve 3 years, 1 month jail time and 7 years probation. For her DUI charge, Walker was fined $3,000 with $1,500 suspended. According to the agreement, Walker will pay restitution in an amount to be determined, forfeit items seized, will have no contact with the victims and will submit to substance abuse recommendations following an assessment.

“I don’t drink,” Walker said, concerned about the possibility of in-patient treatment. “I just drank that night. I haven’t drank for, like, 25 years.”

According to the charging documents, about 5:20 p.m. on July 15, 2012, Alaska State Troopers received multiple 911 calls about a person driving aggressively and erratically in the northbound lane of the Sterling Highway north of Anchor Point. Walker was the driver of the vehicle.

She rear-ended another vehicle before turning around and driving southbound in the northbound lane, causing other drivers to pull onto the side of the road to avoid being hit. Walker is alleged to have shot at vehicles while passing them.

After she stopped, Walker, using a .44 caliber pistol, shot twice from her vehicle, hitting her own vehicle once and a patrol vehicle once while Trooper Chwialkowski was inside the vehicle. The affidavit states that the trooper was afraid of being shot inside the vehicle, so he bailed out and returned fire, hitting Walker in the arm and torso.

The trooper and medic response closed the highway until about 11:45 p.m., stranding tourists and residents in both directions and fishermen driving north for a commercial fishing opening out of Kenai.

Walker was removed from her vehicle. Inside there was a note written by her stating she wanted to “go out in a blaze.”

Walker was treated in Anchorage for her injuries. During an officer interview at the hospital, Walker told officials she was depressed and had planned to drive recklessly so troopers would be called. Then Walker planned to show the gun to troopers so they would shoot her.

Walker’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 1 at Kenai Courthouse.

Kaylee Osowski is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.