'A complete accident': JBER soldier charged in fatal shooting of former service member
A soldier stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is facing a charge of manslaughter after allegedly shooting his friend in what he said was an accident, according to court documents.
On Wednesday, police named 22-year-old Samuel J. Fair as the suspect in a homicide investigation. The Anchorage Police Department says Fair was charged with first-degree assault and reckless endangerment prior to the victim's death, but he is now charged with a single count of manslaughter.
Fair is a paratrooper assigned to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division as a construction equipment repairer, according to U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs Media Chief John Pennell.
Police on Thursday morning identified the victim as 20-year-old Caleb Rockafield. According to Pennell, Rockafield is a former soldier.
Officers responded to an apartment near East 26th Avenue and Boniface Parkway around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday after getting reports that someone was shot, a community alert from the department stated.
According to charging documents, a witness told police that he and Fair are neighbors, and that Fair came over to play video games. While there, Fair asked about an AR-15 rifle that the man had for sale. The witness told Fair he already sold it, but had a similar AR-15 style rifle near his bed. He said he kept the rifle loaded for his own protection, with one cartridge in the chamber and 19 in a 30-round magazine.
"He stated that he saw the defendant take the magazine out of the rifle and told him to check and see if it was loaded. He continued to play video games; he then hear a loud pop. He watched the defendant put the rifle down and leave his apartment."
Another witness told police she observed Fair handling the rifle and saw a green laser pointing at her and Rockafield.
"Next, she stated that she heard a pop. Immediately after the victim began yelling and fell down to the ground. She called 911 to report the shooting. She said she saw the defendant leave the apartment, and she also saw him come back into the apartment. Further, she stated that the defendant was crying and said he was sorry."
The document describes a third witness as Fair's girlfriend, who lived with both Fair and Rockafield as roommates.
"She stated that the defendant came into their apartment acting hysterical. She said that the defendant said something to the effect of, 'I don't know what happened, I accidentally shot [the victim].'"
Officers found Rockafield on the ground, having difficulty breathing. He had a single gunshot wound to the lower left side of his back. Medics responded and transported him to the hospital, but he did not survive.
At Fair's arraignment Wednesday, Dawn Fike addressed the court. She described herself as Fair's step-mother, explaining that her family took in both boys as they were stationed in Alaska without family. She said she had already been in contact with Rockafield's mother, who lives in the Lower 48.
"His mom is not angry or anything, and we, if it's possible, I would like to be able to be the third-party custodian for Mr. Fair. I am temporarily disabled so I am home 24/7, so Mr. Fair would be in good hands," she said, adding, "We know that this was an accident. A complete accident."
Outside of the courtroom, Fike described the relationship between Fair and Rockafield.
"They were like brothers," she said.
Fair's bail is set at $200,000 cash with a third-party custodian. He was assigned a public defender, who indicated the defense may request a hearing to discuss a lower bail amount in the future.
In an email, Media Chief Pennell said Fair joined the Army in October 2016. He trained at Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; and Fort Benning, Georgia; before his assignment to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in April 2017.
Those counts exclude officer involved shootings.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include additional details about Fair and Rockafield's military service. Additionally, an earlier version of this story stated the incident occurred at an address on East 26th Avenue near Aspen Heights Loop. According to court documents, the address was closer to Boniface Parkway.
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