Man shot in Eagle River speaks out in hopes of finding his shooter
Jesse and Aubrey Basler moved away from Anchorage to Eagle River to get away from the increasing crime in the big city. In the early morning hours of January 4, life as Jesse and Aubrey knew it would change in just a few seconds.
Jesse and Aubrey were sleeping in their home on Regency Drive in Eagle River when loud music woke them up just around 3.
"It's a quiet neighborhood with just a few dogs barking from time to time," Jesse said. "That's usually how it is around here."
When the loud rap music started to get closer and closer to his house, Jesse knew something was up.
"It was like 3:30 a.m. and I just heard loud music playing outside-- for this area it's unusual," Jesse said. "Loud music and bass is not real normal for Eagle River. I looked out my window and saw there was a car in front of my house, directly in front of my driveway. What was odd is the passenger side door was open and the car was slowing driving down the road."
While Jesse was trying to determine what he was seeing, someone ran from a blind spot where Jesse's trucks are parked out across the street to his neighbor's house.
"He was checking the car door handles," Jesse said. "While he's going back and forth the car continues real slow down the street while he's checking back and forth. They looked like young kids to me, teenagers."
It was because of that perception that Jesse decided to go outside, unarmed, just in sweatpants, to find out what was going on.
"I was just trying to be a good neighbor and just say, 'hey, get out of here,'" Jesse said. "I ran outside and I got to the bottom of my neighbor's driveway across the street and one of the kids was up by the garage door. I said, 'hey, what are you guys doing, get out of here.' That's when two shots came from the car behind me, down the street a little further."
The first shot hit Jesse in the belly, causing him to keel over. The second shot fired went over Jesse's head.
"I just started running through the cars," Jesse said. "I didn't want to get shot at or hit again. They pretty much took off after that happened and I wasn't able to see the face in the car when I got there. He shot me from behind and I was unarmed, barely dressed."
Jesse's wife Aubrey witnessed the whole event from her bedroom window.
"The car sped off one way and the kid on foot went the other direction," Aubrey said. "I hear gunshots fired and people going in all directions."
Jesse says it all happened in seconds.
"I walked across the street and yelled to scare them," Jesse said. "Instantaneously, I was shot. It was shoot-to-kill. Anytime you get shot at, it's shoot-to-kill. Shooting more than once, too. I never saw it coming. There was really nothing I could do. In hindsight, probably should not have gone out but, again, I looked at them and they looked like kids. Just punk kids checking car doors."
"You would think they would just get in their car and drive off when someone yells at them," Aubrey said. "What was the point of firing the gun? Why couldn't you just go? It's not like he was going to hurt them. We would've just called the cops and said there is a random car driving around trying to break into cars. Instead, they tried to kill someone over nickels and dimes?"
Aubrey says she could've never imagined what was about to happen after seeing car lurk slowly through the neighborhood.
"I'm watching outside to see what is going on because I know him," Aubrey said. "He's going out to yell at these kids. All of the sudden I hear him start yelling and then he goes behind this truck a couple houses down and then gunfire. I hear Jesse yell then drop. Then I panic, you panic. I tried running to the door, and as I did, I heard a second gunshot, it all happened so fast. Then I didn't hear anything. It was just silent. It was scary."
Aubrey says she then called the cops, her boss and then her dad.
"I said, 'Jesse just got shot,'" Aubrey said. "'I'm going to the hospital.'"
Jesse says he got lucky because he was hit with a slug and not a hollow point bullet.
"If it was a hollow point you know, it would've broke apart inside me," Jesse said. "I would have shrapnel all over me. They are made to cause massive trauma. I got lucky with it just being a slug."
"At first I thought it was a .22," Aubrey said. "Because of the sound, it was quieter. The doctor says it would've caused more damage if it was a .22 because it would've bounced around inside. Doctor's think it was a 9mm handgun."
The slug is still inside as doctors determined during surgery that taking the bullet out at this time would cause more harm than good.
"It just had one wound channel," Jesse says of the bullet entry. "It went in my left side and went through my large intestine twice and then through my belly with the bullet lodged just above my right hip somewhere in there."
Through four hours of surgery, Jesse had six to eight inches of his large intestine removed.
"It was just so damaged they couldn't put it back together," Aubrey said. "There was nothing they could do for it."
Jesse says when he first read the story on what happened, he was angry to read that his injuries were not life-threatening.
"When I read that I was upset," Jesse said. "No one out there knew what I was going through. I almost died and doctors told me I was lucky to be alive. It didn't look bad from the outside because there was no blood. That's because I was told I was shot at such a close range, 15 to 20 feet away. The bullet didn't have time to cool in the air once it was fired so it entered me hot and kind of soldered its way through me, keeping me from bleeding out."
Jesse says he knew he was hurt pretty bad.
"Once I got in my house, my stomach hurt pretty bad," Jesse said. "No blood on the outside, but what happened is I was bleeding on the inside and everything from my large intestine was leaking all over inside, too. It became very toxic and deadly and the surgeons had to pull everything out and clean it out. I almost didn't make it."
Jesse spent a week in the hospital before returning home. He knows it's a long road to recovery with a few more surgeries to come. He expects a full recovery but also knows his life may never be the way it once was.
"I plan on coming back stronger than before," Jesse said. "That's my goal right now, just to do what I need to do to get healed up. Six months down the road, I'm going to need a corrective surgery on my stomach so I can use my stomach properly again and get rid of this bag."
"They basically will have to put his intestines back inside," Aubrey said. "They couldn't fix them on the inside, so he has like a hole in his stomach and it has to heal from the outside. His scar goes right down the middle of his stomach. It's a real defining line."
The Baslers praised the Anchorage Police Department for responding so fast.
"They were amazing," Jesse said. "There were here in like two minutes and then stayed until 6 a.m., I was told, checking out the scene. The paramedics were fantastic, too. They knew just what to do and were here so fast, too."
The community has also come together to show their support.
"He had like over 100 people come visit him in the hospital," Aubrey said. "People are reaching out to us and want to help, make us food, take us out. It's overwhelming the amount of support we've gotten by complete strangers and neighbors we didn't know we had."
"After I was shot I became very angry," Jesse said. "Angry I was shot, angry that my injuries were played off in the media like it was no big deal. It was a big deal and I have to live with it now. I don't know if I'll be able to do what I used to do and that made me mad. Someone took that from me."
Jesse's anger soon dissipated after the outpouring of support he received from his neighborhood and community.
"I was overwhelmed with the support people showed me," Jesse said. 'It restored my faith in humanity and I found myself grateful rather than bitter and angry. I realized how lucky I was to be alive. It was because of all these people that I decided to speak out. If I show I'm not afraid, hopefully, my neighbors won't be afraid and maybe more people come forward with more information. I want justice and I want the person who did this caught. I want our community to be a safe place to live."
Jesse says he's ready if it happens again and so is the neighborhood.
"They need to be scared of us. It shouldn't be the other way around," Jesse said. "They need to know we are together as a community and we're going to fight back and do what we can."
"We need to get them off our streets is what we need to do," Aubrey said. "I'm sure it's not their first time. You hear of cars getting broke into all the time. You just don't think it's going to be yours or your neighborhood. Especially here in Eagle River, a quiet neighborhood."
Friends created a GoFundMe account for Jesse to help with medical and living expenses while he is home recovering.
The family also urges anyone with any information to come forward or call the Anchorage Police Department.
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