Joey Lee Handsaker, 38, and Taylor Duane Gisler, 21, have each been charged with first-degree vehicle theft and second-degree assault. The assault charge is a class B felony, while the vehicle theft charge is a less serious class C felony.
According to interviews filed by Alaska State Troopers, the incident began late Thursday when Gisler and Handsaker allegedly beat fellow lumber camp worker Daniel Hershaw. Witnesses said the two men were under the influence of alcohol, which is banned at the camp, when Hershaw told a joke about Handsaker’s family.
After the fight, the two men were fired by Ronald Johnson, manager of Evergreen Timber’s operations on Afognak Island.
Johnson reported the incident to troopers and Hershaw announced his intention to press charges. The two men were scheduled to fly back to Kodiak, but after their flight was delayed by snow squalls, they took a skiff from the lumber camp.
The skiff’s owner said the two men did not have permission to use it, and he reported the boat as stolen.
Troopers, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Kodiak harbormaster’s office tracked the skiff to St. Paul Harbor, where troopers arrested Handsaker and Gisler soon after they arrived.
In later interviews, Handsaker disputed witness accounts, saying the fight was mutual combat and “got blown way out than what it really was.”
He also disputed the allegation that the two men sole the boat, saying he had permission.
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Johnson said the incident was unheard of for Evergreen’s camp on Afognak.
“The first time I came here was ’91,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Hershaw, who was described as being in “rough shape” with two black eyes and rib injuries, was recovering on Afognak Island, Johnson said.
Handsaker and Gisler are being held on $15,000 bond and have a preliminary hearing scheduled for April 17.
A class B felony is normally punishable by one to three years in prison, and a class C felony is punishable by up to two years in jail.
Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at email@example.com.