Numerous Eagle River gun incidents investigated

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 22:26
Case of armed 3-year-old is most serious

Stacey Eichenlaub pulled her Dodge Neon into the driveway on Eagle River’s Walrus Circle so she could run inside and grab a paint swatch on the evening of May 21.

Her two young children waited in the Neon, strapped in car seats.

But within minutes, Eichenlaub’s 3-year-old son managed to unbuckle his restraints, scramble into the front seat, find a purse tucked under the passenger seat — and grab the .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver inside. Eichenlaub had the swatch and was about to head back out to the car when she hard a single gunshot.

She raced to the deck outside and got the fright of her life. The boy had the gun in his hands.

“PUT IT DOWN!” she screamed at him, over and over, too afraid to take her eyes off her son so she could run to the car.

After several long minutes, the boy finally put the gun down. Eichenlaub ran to him.

“I was crying, just thank God he was OK,” she said. “A neighbor came over to check on things. I started crying again.”

She took the boy and his sister out of the car. The neighbor called police. Officers couldn’t find any property damaged by a bullet, police spokeswoman Anita Shell said.

Police cited and released Eichenlaub on charges of reckless endangerment. She was obviously upset, a police report noted.

“It was just a miracle he didn’t get hurt,” Eichenlaub said.

The 23-year-old works as a photographer who sometimes does boudoir work with women in lingerie and said she started carrying the weapon after random men approached photo shoots, spooking her clients and her.

Eichenlaub said she’d forgotten she had the gun in her purse. There’s no way she would have left her kids alone with a loaded weapon.

“It was an honest mistake,” she said.

For now, the gun sits unloaded on a closet shelf. If Eichenlaub decides to start carrying it again, she said, she’ll wear it on her hip during photo shoots or transport it, locked, in the car’s trunk.

“If I have my kids with me, the gun’s not there,” she said.

The incident was just one of many reports in the last two weeks involving weapons. On May 18 at about 10:30 p.m., officers responded to Becky Lane in Chugiak after a homeowner reported shots fired. Officers heard shots too, police spokeswoman Marlene Lammers said.

They traced the sound to a home on Joy Lane and made contact with four men, Lammers said. The officers discovered the men were intoxicated and were shooting their rifles at a stump in the backyard, she said. Three of the four were cited and released for fourth-degree misconduct involving weapons: Jonathan Pope, 36, of Chugiak; Matthew Jarussi, 37, of Maple Valley, Wash.; and Glade Nelson, 46, of Nikiski.

At about 11:15 p.m. that same evening, officers responded to a report of shots fired from someone inside Fire Lake Elementary, police said. The witness described a vehicle involved, and moments later another officer radioed a report of shots fired at Lower Fire Lake.

The officer said he had stopped the suspect vehicle, Lammers said. Two of the people inside admitted to firing shots with a new gun one of the men had just bought, she said. The men had been drinking before they drove to the area where officers found them, the officers involved reported.

Arrested were James Michael Clark, 21, of Eagle River on charges of second- and fourth-degree misconduct involving weapons and Demarious Marquail Dawson, 22, of Eagle River on charges of fourth-degree misconduct involving weapons and driving while intoxicated, Lammers said. Dawson’s estimated breath-alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit, she said.

Clark was lodged at Anchorage Jail in lieu of $1,000 bail plus release when sober. Dawson was lodged at Anchorage Jail in lieu of $1,000 bail.

On May 22, at about 3:20 p.m., numerous officers responded to a vacant lot next to the Microtel Inn & Suites in Eagle River after someone reported shots fired from a vehicle and a rifle pointed out the driver’s side window, Lammers said.

Both young men in the vehicle cooperated with police in what turned out to be a case of firing a pellet gun in a vacant lot. The driver, 18-year-old Dominic Anthony Taus, 18, of Eagle River told police he fired the gun, she said. Police arrested Taus for misconduct involving weapons. He was lodged at Anchorage Jail in lieu of $250 cash bail.

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