ROCKLAND, Maine — Just before Edwin Vance Bunker pepper sprayed the man he would end up shooting on the Matinicus town dock last summer, the victim threatened to kill him, according to testimony Tuesday in a Knox County courtroom.
A few hours later, Bunker, 68, of Matinicus and Owls Head told his stern man to bring his AK-47 and ammunition in what both men expected to be a confrontation over the vandalism of lobster gear. Neither the gun nor any ammunition was removed from a storage case, according to testimony.
Bunker is charged with two counts of elevated aggravated assault, criminal threatening and reckless conduct in connection with the July 20 shooting of lobsterman Christopher Young. He was shot in the neck with a .22-caliber revolver.
Bunker’s daughter, Janan Miller, 45, of Spruce Head is charged with reckless conduct in connection with the same incident.
The trial of Bunker and his daughter continued Tuesday with the dramatic testimony of Thomas Bernardi, 44.
Bernardi, who has homes on Matinicus and in South Thomaston, has been Bunker’s stern man for five years and lives with another of Bunker’s daughters, Ellen Bunker, who captains her own lobster boat.
The prosecution rested its case Tuesday. Both defendants are expected to take the stand today. The jury is scheduled to begin deliberations Thursday.
Young, 42, of Owls Head, testified Monday that Bunker shot him in the neck a few hours after Young had boarded Bunker’s boat in the harbor without permission. Young told the jury that he boarded Bunker’s boat about 6 a.m. to accuse Bunker and Bunker’s son-in-law Alan Miller, 60, of Spruce Head of cutting the lines on about 170 of his lobster traps and about 240 of Young’s step-brother’s trap lines. Young said he and Bunker got into a physical confrontation that ended when Bunker pepper sprayed Young in the face.
Bernardi testified Tuesday that he witnessed the tussle, which ended in the stern of the boat. He said that after the men separated, Bunker walked back toward the wheelhouse.
“Chris accused him of cutting his traps,” the stern man told the jury. “Vance said, ‘I didn’t cut your traps. Get off my boat.’”
That is when Young threatened to kill Bunker, Bernardi told the jury.
“Vance went into the wheelhouse and I told Chris, ‘You just said the magic words,’” Bernardi said. “‘You just threatened the captain. Now, get off this boat, please.’”
Young testified Monday that he was hostile when he boarded Bunker’s boat but denied threatening to kill him. Young pleaded guilty last month to criminal trespass in connection with that incident and paid a $500 fine.
Under cross-examination, Bernardi testified Tuesday that he had expected Bunker to come out of the wheelhouse with a gun instead of the pepper spray. He said that after Bunker pepper sprayed Young, Young quickly left the boat.
Bernardi said that after the incident they returned to shore so Bunker could call law enforcement officials. Bernardi went home but received a call a few hours later from Bunker.
“Shortly before 10 a.m. I got a call from him,” the stern man testified. “He said he was going to pick me up [in his truck]. He said there was a chase going on. He asked me to bring my AK-47.”
Young testified Monday that he and his stepbrother, Weston Ames, 44, of Matinicus briefly chased Alan Miller’s boat in an attempt to confront him about the vandalized lobster traps.
Bernardi told the jury Tuesday that after he got the call from Bunker, he brought the assault rifle, nine loaded clips with 30 rounds each and a loaded .45-caliber handgun. He and Bunker drove to the north end of the island, where the chase reportedly was taking place, but saw no boats, then headed to the harbor.
The stern man said when he and Bunker arrived at the dock they saw Alan Miller’s boat pulled alongside the dock and heard Young and Ames yelling at Alan Miller and a Marine Patrol officer who was onboard Miller’s boat to get off the boat.
Bernardi said that he took the AK-47 and his handgun back to Bunker’s truck before returning to the dock. The stern man said that when he returned to the dock, which had lobster traps stacked on it, he saw Janan Miller point a shotgun at Young and Ames. Ames testified earlier Tuesday that he grabbed the barrel of the gun and pushed it away from him and his brother.
“I jumped back behind some traps,” Bernardi said, “because it looked like he was taking control of the gun and if she had ducked, I’d have been in the line of fire.”
Bernardi testified that he heard two gunshots but did not see Bunker fire at Ames or Young.
Ames, 44, testified late Monday and again Tuesday morning that before Bunker turned the gun on Young he aimed a revolver at Ames’ head and fired. The bullet whizzed by his head, Ames told the jury.
“The wind off it spun me around,” he said. “I was looking at the harbor [instead of the dock]. Bunker took the gun and pointed it at my brother and fired. Chris piled up at my feet.”
Ames’ stern man, Benjamin Young, 31, of St. George and Christopher Young’s former stern man, Casey Tolman, 30, of Owls Head, both testified Tuesday that their bosses went to the Matinicus town dock to confront Janan Miller’s husband, Alan Miller, over the cutting of their lobster traps.
Benjamin Young and Christopher Young are not related.
Both stern men told jurors that Janan Miller pointed a loaded shotgun at them and their bosses. The two also testified that Bunker shot at Ames, and then turned the gun on Christopher Young. Tolan and Benjamin Young said neither they nor their bosses were armed during the confrontation.