A chance encounter by a Homer Police Department officer on patrol at about 5 a.m. Dec. 2 disrupted an assault on an East End Road man in the driveway of his home across the street from Paul Banks Elementary School. Police said a man armed with a shotgun and a .45-caliber handgun scuffled with the victim in the parking lot, and during the assault intentionally fired his handgun. The bullet missed the victim and went into the ground. A second man also was in the parking lot and brandished a .44-caliber handgun.
The assault did not affect Paul Banks Elementary School, said Homer Police Chief Mark Robl.
The victim suffered a head injury, but escaped more serious harm when Officer Ed Stading noticed something suspicious and turned his patrol car around to investigate. The victim’s alleged assailants fled when Stading pulled up.
Police found out from the victim that he knew the suspects and that the altercation came about from allegations regarding property and a sexual assault. Police later on Wednesday arrested the suspects, Joshua Lathrop, 37, and Kirk Daman, 52. Police arrested Lathrop at his home on the Homer Spit and Daman at his Frontier Lane home.
Last Thursday morning, Magistrate Martin Fallon, attending telephonically, arraigned Lathrop and Daman. Lathrop faces two counts of first-degree burglary and one count of second-degree assault, all class B felonies. Daman was charged with third-degree assault, a class C felony.
When Stading arrived at the scene, he found the victim bleeding from the head. Stading called for backup and medics. Stading found out from the victim that there were two women in the house. Police did not know where the two suspects had gone. Officers quickly arrived wearing armored vests and jump gear — black overalls — and carrying rifles.
“We thought there might be one (a suspect) in the house,” said Homer Police Chief Mark Robl. “The first thing we did was clear the house and ensure there weren’t any suspects left inside, and ensure the women were safe.”
Police did not find the alleged assailants in the house. Footprints in fresh snow through the woods led to tire tracks. According to a press release and a criminal complaint filed by Sgt. Lary Kuhns, the victim told police that he had been in his home when a man later identified as Lathrop entered the home armed with a shotgun and a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun tucked into his waistband. Robl alleged Lathrop threatened the man and two women, all in one room, and pointed the shotgun at them. The victim ran outside and tried to run toward a dark, unlit area behind his home when he encountered a man later identified as Daman. The victim claimed Daman brandished a .44-caliber handgun.
The victim then ran back toward his home and was met by Lathrop. He claimed they got into a fight, and Lathrop hit him in the head with one of the guns. Lathrop also fired the .45 handgun, with the bullet hitting the ground, the victim said to police. Lathrop dropped the gun, a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic, and investigators found the gun, a spent cartridge shell, a .45-caliber magazine missing one bullet and the victim’s hat in the area of the scuffle.
Using a line-up of photographs from Alaska driver’s licenses, the victim identified Lathrop as the man who came into his home and hit him, and Daman as the man who confronted him outside his home. Police arrested Lathrop about 10 a.m. at a trailer parked near the Seafarer’s Memorial. Police arrested Daman about 2 p.m. at his Frontier Lane home.
At his arraignment, Lathrop claimed he was “being railroaded.” He said he had filed complaints with the police about the alleged victim, saying the man threatened him.
Lathrop claimed self defense.
“When he pulled a gun on me, I felt like I had to defend myself,” Lathrop said.
Robl said the victim was unarmed. Robl said Lathrop did not make complaints to police about alleged threats by the victim or sexual assaults involving Lathrop’s girlfriend. Megan Peters, a spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers, also said troopers did not receive complaints from Lathrop.
Lathrop is currently at Wildwood Pretrial Facility in Kenai. Daman was released on bail on Tuesday afternoon.