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Unalaska Teen Ruled Juvenile Delinquent For Role In Handgun Incident

Berett Wilber

An Unalaska teen has been ruled a juvenile delinquent for his role in a "prank" last July, in which a handgun was used to threaten another teenager.

A jury delivered the verdict last week after a three-day trial at the local courthouse.

While most juvenile trials are conducted in private, this one was open to the public because of the severity of the charge.

"Because it was a crime against a person and other criteria were met, it could be made open to the public," said Assistant District Attorney Ryan Bravo.

KUCB is not naming any of the teens involved because they are underage.

The accused minor faced one felony charge of third-degree assault for "recklessly [placing] another person in fear of imminent serious physical injury by means of a dangerous instrument."

Bravo said the teen came up with the idea of "pranking" the victim, retrieved a gun owned by his parents, and gave the weapon to a friend before they picked up the victim in a car. Then, Bravo said the friend pointed the gun at the victim.

"The argument we made at trial was that by pointing a handgun — which is, by its nature, a deadly weapon — it put the victim in fear and resulted in what we call a fear assault, which is a felony-level assault," he said.

Bravo said all parties agreed on most of the facts, including who held the firearm and where the assault happened.

The dispute the jury needed to rule on, he said, was whether the accused teen should be held accountable for his friend's actions — and whether the victim was truly afraid.

After hearing testimony from six witnesses, the jury determined the victim was afraid and the accused teen was responsible.

Defense attorney John Bernitz declined to comment.

The teen is due back in court in August, when a judge is expected to order the final outcome of the case. Bravo declined to speculate, but juvenile consequences often include probation and treatment.

"Unlike adult crimes, for the juvenile crimes, there's a much bigger push [to] come up with a plan to make it so this youth will one day be able to be a productive adult in society," said Bravo.

The case of the other teen charged in the incident — the friend who held the weapon — was resolved without a trial. The state has not made his court-mandated consequence public.


Zoë Sobel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2019. She returned to KUCB after a year living in Nepal and Malaysia as a Luce Scholar. She then returned to KUCB as a ProPublica reporter August of 2020 through August of 2021.
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