A chance encounter by a Homer Police Department officer on patrol at about 5 a.m. Wednesday 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, police said.
The assault did not affect Paul Banks Elementary School, said Homer Police Chief Mark Robl.
“There was no threat whatsoever to the school,” he said.
Paul Banks Elementary School Principal Eric Pederson said school went on as planned that day.
“We work closely with local law enforcement. Chief Robl and the Homer Police Department regard school safety with the upmost importance,” Pederson said. “We were informed that there was no threat to students, parents or staff.”
The victim suffered a head injury, but escaped more serious harm when at about 5 a.m. Dec. 2 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 an alleged sexual assault. Police later on Wednesday arrested the suspects, Joshua Lathrop, 37, and Kirk Daman, 52, both of Homer. Police arrested Lathrop at his home on the Homer Spit and Daman at his Frontier Lane home.
On Thursday morning, Magistrate Martin Fallon, attending telephonically, arraigned Lathrop and Daman in separate hearings. 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 man 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 but knew both were armed. Officers quickly arrived wearing armored vests and jump gear — black overalls — and carrying rifles.
“When we first responded, we thought there might be one (a suspect) in the house,” said Homer Police Chief Mark Robl. “That was 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. In charging documents, Homer Police Sgt. Lary Kuhns said it appeared the suspects had parked a short distance from the victim’s home, a trailer on a lot west of Blackwell Pump Service, to avoid detection.
According to a press release and a criminal complaint filed by 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 that 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.
Robl said the trailer is one of about 10 motor homes, trailers and cars parked in the lot across from Fish Dock Road. People can camp there in the winter, but city officials are discussing limiting camping there, Robl said.
After arresting Lathrop and Daman, police recovered the shotgun and the .44-caliber handgun used by the two men. Shoes worn by the man matched show prints found at the scene, Kuhns wrote in the complaint.
At their arraignments, held separately by telephone from the Homer Jail, both men said they had not worked in a year and had little money or savings. Daman said he had worked in the oil industry and had been laid off for a year.
Lathrop said his last job was about a year ago at a local hotel. He said he had some beater trucks and a motor home hardly worth anything.
Fallon appointed Lathrop and Daman lawyers with the public defender’s office and set bail at a $30,000 cash performance bond for Lathrop and a $20,000 cash performance bond for Daman, with third-party custodians.
“This is a pretty serious allegation, especially to the safety of the community,” Fallon said in setting the high bail. “This is among the more serious of cases we see.”
A preliminary hearing was set for 3:30 p.m. Dec. 11.
At Thursday’s arraignment, Daman claimed he didn’t go into the house. Fallon cautioned Daman of his right to remain silent.
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.
On Friday, Robl said Lathrop and Daman were still at the Homer Jail, but would be transferred to Wildwood Pretrial Facility in Kenai.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.