Daughter arrested in shooting case on Matinicus Island

Posted Sept. 21, 2009, at 3:57 p.m.
Janan Miller, 45, of Spruce Head, charged with reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon. (Photo courtesy of Knox County Jail)
Janan Miller, 45, of Spruce Head, charged with reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon. (Photo courtesy of Knox County Jail)

ROCKLAND, Maine — The daughter of a Matinicus Island fisherman who was armed and present when her father allegedly shot a rival fisherman over a gear dispute has been arrested on a charge of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon.

Janan Miller, 45, of Spruce Head was named in a secret indictment by the Knox County grand jury last Thursday. The indictment was unsealed after Miller was arrested for the Class C felony on Friday. She was booked at the Knox County Jail and later released on $5,000 unsecured bail.

Miller’s father, Edwin Vance Bunker, 68, of Matinicus was indicted by the same grand jury on two felony counts of aggravated elevated assault and single counts of criminal threatening and reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon.

The charges stemmed from the July 20 incident when Bunker allegedly shot and wounded Christopher Young, 41, of Matinicus on the island wharf and shot over the head of Weston Ames, another fisherman who was present. Young was shot once in the neck and is recovering from his wound.

The grand jury also indicted Young on the misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass for refusing to leave Bunker’s lobster boat. Young had boarded Bunker’s boat several hours before he was shot to complain about his lobster gear being cut.

Janan Miller is the wife of Alan Miller, whose decision to fish waters around Matinicus instead of his home waters off Tenants Harbor, apparently triggered this summer’s gear-cutting incidents.

Island fishermen are protective of their waters and some apparently viewed Miller as an unwanted interloper. Bunker swore in an affidavit that 150 of Miller’s lobster traps were cut the first week he set them on the Matinicus bottom.

According to authorities and witness statements, the day of the shooting began with Young boarding Bunker’s boat and accusing him of cutting his gear. Bunker told Young to leave his boat, and when he failed to do so, sprayed him with pepper spray.

Later that morning Bunker’s wife advised him by phone that Young and Ames and another fisherman were attempting to drive Miller’s boat “on the ledges,” according to Bunker’s affidavit.

Marine Patrol officer Wes Dean was in the area investigating the gear cutting and boarded Miller’s boat to protect him as he steamed back to the island wharf. Dean stated that when he arrived at the dock he observed Janan Miller with a shotgun in her hand. She was pointing it at Young, Dean reported.

Dean said he saw someone approach Miller and that the shotgun barrel suddenly moved to the side. “At that point I heard a gunshot come from a stack of lobster traps that was just ahead of me to my left,” Dean stated.

Dean said he heard a second shot as he was jumping onto the dock with his gun drawn. Dean said he observed Bunker with a .22-caliber revolver in his hand and immediately ordered him to drop the gun. Dean said he then saw Young on the ground with a wound to his neck. Ames was by his side.

In their affidavits, Young and Ames claimed the Bunkers staged a coordinated attack that day. The two men said they were on the dock waiting to talk to the warden when Janan Miller suddenly appeared from behind some traps armed with the shotgun. They said Miller pointed the gun at Ames and when he brushed it aside with his arm Bunker approached from another direction and began shooting. The first shot went over Ames’ head, the second struck Young.

In his affidavit, Bunker claimed that Ames and his daughter struggled over the shotgun and that he shot because he feared for her life. “I had no choice, I wasn’t going to let her get shot,” Bunker later told Knox County Deputy Sheriff Donald Murray.

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.

Fragments from the bullet remain embedded in an area close to Young’s spine and cannot be removed because of the risk of further injury. The shot left Young with limited control of his arms and the “almost total paralysis of his hands” according to court records. The court has yet to rule on Young’s request that a $4 million attachment be placed on Bunker’s property. Young indicated it was doubtful he would ever fish again and has pulled his boat Miss Madelyn from the water and put it up for sale.

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