District attorney: Bethel police withheld evidence, witness in attempted murder case
This story originated from KYUK Public Media and was republished with permission.
BETHEL — The state is seeking a lesser assault charge in the case against Daniel Misner, who allegedly fired shots at a man in a residential neighborhood of Bethel earlier this year. Evidence that could have supported a charge of attempted murder was never submitted to the district attorney for his case.
Gene Peltola, who witnessed the shooting, says Misner’s intent was clearly to kill his victim. Peltola was not asked to testify.
“He was shooting in a stance, like he was shooting at a target,” Peltola said. “Holding the weapon in two hands, and as fast as he could pull the trigger, he shot five or six times.”
Peltola, the executive director of Orutsararmiut Native Council, says he reported what he saw to Bethel police Chief Andre Achee but was never called to give his account on record. As a result, District Attorney Michael Gray did not hear from Peltola before offering Misner a deal that would reduce his jail time from nine years to eight months. Misner has yet to be sentenced.
“I’m not gonna say that, yeah, that would have made difference, because I don’t know that it would have,” Gray said. “But I will say, I didn’t know about the guy.”
In cases like this one, Gray says he looks at more than just whether a gun went off.
“Whenever you’re deciding to resolve a case, you look at the conduct, you look at the criminal history, you look at what happened, and whether you consider [that person] to be a danger to the community or somebody that did something because they were drunk and stupid,” Gray said.
From reports the DA has, there were two witnesses. One says Misner was shooting the gun to kill, and one says he shot in the air, maybe to scare the victim, Charlie Smith. But Peltola’s account seems to add weight to the idea that there was an intent to kill. And there’s more.
“They took my hat for evidence,” Smith said.
He says police took the hat he was wearing during the shooting that had a hole from a bullet grazing his head. The hat, which would seem to confirm that at least one bullet was not fired randomly into the air, but towards Smith, is in police custody.
This piece of evidence seems to negate the idea Misner was not shooting at the victim and supports Peltola’s version of events. Though Smith says police took the hat, it too never made it to the DA, and thus could not contribute to the case. But, again, the DA said he isn’t convinced this would have made a difference in the deal Misner got.
“My goal is, in prosecuting this case, is to get him in jail for a while, because I think jail is a pedagogical device, a teaching device,” Gray said. “It helps people learn a lesson. But at some point, the lesson’s learned.”
Achee chose not to comment on this story after being contacted by email.
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