ROCKLAND, Maine — The Matinicus Island fisherman who was shot during a dispute over lobster gear and the fisherman who allegedly shot him were indicted Thursday by a Knox County grand jury.
Facing the most serious charges is Edwin Vance Bunker, 68, of Matinicus who allegedly shot Christopher Young, 41, in the neck while the two men argued over the cutting of lobster gear. The shooting occurred on the town wharf the morning of July 20.
Bunker was indicted on two counts of elevated aggravated assault for allegedly shooting Young. He also was indicted for criminal threatening and reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon for allegedly shooting at Weston D. Ames during the same altercation. Ames was not injured. All four charges are felonies with the two assault charges being Class A crimes and the other two Class C crimes. Class A crimes are punishable by up to 40 years in prison and a $50,000 fine, and Class C crimes are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Young was indicted on the misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass for refusing to leave Bunker’s lobster boat on the morning he was shot.
Knox County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau said Bunker was indicted twice for shooting Young because of two different legal theories on that type of behavior. One charge states that Bunker “intentionally or knowingly” injured Young. The other states that he did so with “depraved indifference to the value of human life,” Rushlau said.
“There are occasions when we will indict on both and that is the case in this case, though it’s the same alleged victim and same injury,” Rushlau said Thursday.
Bunker and Young had been arguing for more than a month over the loss of lobster gear before the shooting.
According to affidavits filed in the case, the dispute began when Bunker’s son-in-law Alan Miller, who normally fished out of Tenants Harbor, began setting traps off Matinicus in early June. Island fishermen are protective of their fishing grounds and historically have chased outsiders away. Bunker claimed that Miller lost 150 traps the first week he set them.
On the morning of the shooting, Young discovered that his gear had been cut and he boarded Bunker’s boat to confront him. The two argued and when Young refused to leave the boat, Bunker sprayed him with pepper spray, according to the affidavits.
Young left and a short time later Bunker received a call from his wife alerting him that Young, Ames and another fisherman were attempting to drive Miller’s boat “on the ledges,” Bunker stated in an affidavit.
Marine Patrol Officer Wes Dean was in the area because of the recent gear cutting and growing trouble between the fishermen, and he boarded Miller’s boat to make sure the others did not harass him. Dean stated that when they reached the dock, he observed Miller’s wife, Janan, holding a black shotgun and pointing it at Young.
Dean said he saw someone approach Janan Miller and the gun barrel suddenly moved to the side. “At that point I heard a gun shot come from a stack of lobster traps that was just ahead of me to my left,” he stated.
Dean said he leaped onto the dock with his gun in hand when he heard a second shot and saw Bunker standing there with a .22-caliber revolver in his hand. Dean ordered Bunker to drop his gun. Dean said he then saw Young on the ground with a wound to the neck.
In their affidavits, Young and Ames said they were on the dock when Janan Miller suddenly appeared with a shotgun in her hand. They said when she pointed it at Ames, he brushed it aside with his arm. It was then that Bunker appeared and began shooting. The first shot missed Ames, and the second hit Young in the neck.
Bunker was placed under arrest on a single count of elevated aggravated assault, and Young was airlifted to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. Bunker is free on $125,000 bail and has been ordered not to set foot on Matinicus or to have any contact with Young or Ames.
According to a lawsuit filed with the case, Young claimed he was the victim of a coordinated attack that may leave him permanently disabled. According to the statement, fragments from the bullet remain embedded in an area close to his spine and cannot be removed because of the risk of further damage.
The shot left Young with limited control of both arms and the “almost total paralysis of his hands.” He has asked the court to place a $4 million attachment on Bunker’s property. He said it was doubtful he would ever fish again and estimated he will lose $2.4 million in income over the next 24 years.
When interviewed by Knox County Deputy Sheriff Donald Murray immediately afterward, Bunker said he shot Young because he feared for his daughter’s life. He claimed that Ames struggled with his daughter over the shotgun and that he fired over Ames’ head to make him stop. Bunker said Young then “lunged” at his daughter and he fired again.
“I didn’t have no … choice. I wasn’t going to let her get shot,” Bunker told Murray. “I shot at Weston because he grabbed my daughter’s gun and Christopher got shot wherever he got shot.”