'It ricocheted off my skull': Anchorage man survives stray bullet to the head
Family members filled a brown sectional couch in Charles "Chuck" Clayton's living room Wednesday. Opening credits were still playing on the movie they had agreed on and his two-year-old son was perched on his lap.
That's when they heard a loud pop.
"Me and the wife turn and look at each other and then [I'm] feeling and noticing the blood running down the back of my head," Clayton said.
The feeling of safety and security in their home was shattered in a moment so unexpected, Clayton didn't immediately realize he had been shot.
"Tossed my two year old onto the couch off my lap so that I could go see what happened and I run to the kitchen sink and the blood just starts pouring down," he said.
Clayton described the hectic moments before police arrived. He put pressure on the wound. Family members urged him to sit down but he couldn't stop moving. He said he just really wanted a cigarette.
"It was crazy. It was wild. I don’t know how to explain it," he said.
Anchorage Police officers arrived and formed a line outside the Mountain View apartment complex on Parsons Avenue. Still holding his head, he walked toward them for help.
Clayton got an ambulance ride to the hospital, while police investigated. They determined a gun in the apartment above Clayton's had fired — sending a bullet through a couch in the second-floor unit, the carpet, then down through Clayton's ceiling where it "bounced" off of his head.
"It ricocheted off my skull," Clayton said. "They found the slug five feet away from me, underneath my ferrets' cage."
APD arrested Ronny G. Smith Jr., 46, for charges of assault, misconduct involving a weapon and reckless endangerment.
It is illegal for Smith to have a gun because he has a history of felonies. He was convicted for being a felon in possession of a firearm in 2012. His criminal history in Alaska goes back to 1994.
According to court documents, Smith's mother and uncle were in the apartment with him. Smith's mother told police she was certain that it was Smith who fired the gun and that immediately after the shot, Smith ran into a bedroom and then the bathroom before going outside.
Smith initially told officers a man named Everclear was in the apartment, accidentally fired the gun and ran away. Eventually, according to the charging document, Smith admitted to officers that he was pulling a handgun out of his pocket when it accidentally went off.
"He’s lucky it went the way it did," Clayton said. "Grazed me. Just grazed me. It coulda went really bad for my son, just sitting two inches away in my lap."
He said he hopes his story will serve as a warning to others to follow the law.
"My parents, they’re both felons. They can’t own firearms or anything, but we would love to go do our thing, go hunting, but we can’t do it. It’s not okay for him to have one if we can’t have one. I’m blessed that I’m not, so I can willfully carry all I want," he said.
By Friday, Clayton was walking around with two staples in the top of his head. The hole in the ceiling is also patched.
While visible signs of the gunshot are fading, the memory is still fresh. Clayton says his children are still terrified to sit on the couch. But the seven-year resident, who also does maintenance at the apartment complex, said he isn't scared to continue living in his home.
"It’s not the guns, that scare me. It’s the people with guns that don’t know how to use them, don’t respect the right to have a gun," he said. "That’s what scares me."
Clayton said he's thankful he didn't lose his life or his son. He also kept his sense of humor.
"I’ve got a hard head. And I’m thankful for it," he said.
Smith was arraigned on Thursday. His bail is set at $2,500 cash. If released, he'll be placed on pretrial electronic monitoring.
While it's not common for Alaskan's to be hit by stray bullets while inside their homes, it's not unheard of.
In October of 2016, a 4-year-old Anchorage girl was struck and injured by bullet fragments when someone in an upstairs apartment fired a gun. The girl's parents drove her to the hospital, where, hours later, they learned she had been shot by a .45 caliber gun.
On June 2, 2017, a then 20-year-old woman at an apartment on Mockingbird Drive was paralyzed from the waist down by a bullet from the apartment below that punctured her heart. Police said the suspect in that case, Joseph Lock, who was 22 at the time, told them he was "dancing around with the gun in his hand" at a party when it accidentally fired; he was arrested and still faces a first-degree assault charge.
The following month, another woman was hit by a bullet from a neighboring apartment. Police said a woman was wounded Thursday, July 27, 2017 by a bullet fired through the floor of the apartment above hers on the 700 block of North Pine Street as she slept.
In May of 2018, a toddler was in her living room and surrounded by family when she was struck with a stray bullet intended for someone else. Through surveillance videos, APD was able to piece together a case charging two suspects in what investigators believe was a case of road rage.
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