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Rural Alaska man arraigned on charges of shooting wife

Jerzy Shedlock
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A Buckland man was arraigned Tuesday in Kotzebue for first-degree attempted murder for shooting his wife following a drunken argument. It was the second shooting in the predominantly Inupiat Eskimo village in less than three months.

Alaska State Troopers say 27-year-old Donald Hadley shot his wife, injuring her hand and face. Village mayor Tim Gavin, whose home is reportedly across the road from the alleged shooter’s, secured the crime scene late Sunday night after the incident. He told troopers he watched through a window as Hadley armed himself and refused to surrender to authorities.

The mayor went to Hadley’s home to investigate a report that the man was holed up, drunk and armed in the presence of his wife and 2-year-old daughter, according to court documents. Gavin knocked on the side of the home and asked the man to come out, but “(Hadley) responded by getting a Ruger Mini 14 semiautomatic rifle" and pointing it at Gavin, who was standing beside the window. Hadley asserted he was not going back to jail, a trooper wrote.

Gavin kept banging on the side of the home, asking Hadley to come out. He left to grab a bulletproof vest at one point as Hadley repeatedly pointed the rifle in his direction but refused to come out. The mayor called other officers for assistance, according to the court documents.

That’s when Hadley turned into the room, identified as a bedroom, and fired the rifle. Troopers say his daughter was in the room when the shot was fired.

Hadley’s wife screamed from inside the home, the mayor told troopers. The mayor retreated, fearing more shots. Shortly thereafter, Hadley came out of the residence with his child in one arm and the rifle in his other hand. Gavin and a village police officer were able to disarm Hadley and arrest him without injuring the 2-year-old, according to troopers.

Gavin then entered the home and heard Hadley’s wife screaming, “Don’t let him in, don’t let him kill me,” he told troopers. He forced open a bedroom door and found the woman inside with a swollen face covered in blood. One of the woman’s index fingers was missing below the top two joints, as well. A trooper later found the tip of a finger on the bedroom floor.

An investigating trooper determined the wife had been holding the rifle when Hadley fired it, and a bullet severed her finger. He also determined that Hadley allegedly used the rifle to beat the woman.

The village police officer and the mayor said the couple appeared drunk, as both smelled of alcohol and were uncoordinated. The two had shared a Rockstar drink with alcohol earlier in the evening, Hadley told troopers during a subsequent interview. Hadley said he did not recall the alleged shooting. 

Hadley now faces charges including various assault counts, attempted murder, a weapons charge and endangering a child, according to online court records.

Buckland, a small village of 416 residents located on the west bank of the river of the same name, banned the sale and importation of alcohol in 1982. But the town is only 75 miles southeast of Kotzebue, a regional hub that permits the sale of alcohol through a city-owned liquor store.

In late July, Buckland resident Gary Ballot shot and severely injured village police officer Lorin Geary while attempting to bring booze into the village. The Buckland bootlegger pleaded guilty to attempted murder on Sept. 30 in Nome. He faces five to 99 years in prison for the unclassified felony. Geary faces a long road to recovery.

Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter @jerzyms.