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Veteran Shot After Rampage in Yukon River Village

October 10, 1986

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ A gunman was killed by Alaska state troopers when he went on a rampage after a favorable psychiatric examination caused him to lose his military disability benefits.

The angry veteran wounded one man and held the mayor of a Yukon River village at gunpoint, troopers said, before they shot him Thursday.

Alakanuk Mayor Terry Cook identified the gunman as James Gaskin, a tall, bearded, 39-year-old former Coast Guardsman who lived in seclusion across the river from Alakanuk. Villagers knew him as a strange man who posed no threat, Cook said.

Cook said Gaskin held him at gunpoint using two shotguns until he slipped away and called troopers in Bethel, some 170 miles away.

″He said he ain’t gonna go to jail or the nut house, so there was only one alternative,″ Cook said after the ordeal.

Troopers spokesman Paul Edscorn said the rampage started just before noon in the Yukon Delta village on the western Alaska coast, about 500 miles northwest of Anchorage.

″Apparently he’d gotten some letter from the VA saying his benefits had been reduced,″ Cook said.

After receiving the letter, troopers said, Gaskin burst into the home of Kurt Konst, a former roommate, sprayed him with Mace, beat him and fired a shotgun blast that ripped into Konst’s leg. Konst was hospitalized.

From there, Gaskin went to City Hall, where Cook was alone.

″The door swung open and he raised one shotgun, and then another one that was sawed off so much that I could see the green wrappers on the ends of the shells,″ he said.

″He told me to call the VA (in Anchorage) and told me not to stall. He pulled the hammers back on the sawed-off gun.″

After fumbling with the telephone books to find the number, Cook said he finally reached an administrator.

″Gaskin wanted to know why his vet’s check had been reduced,″ Cook said. ″He apparently was getting disabled benefits, and he’d had a psychiatric exam in Anchorage last week. The test said he was better, so he didn’t need no 100 percent disability.

″He said I should tell them there’s a 100 percent disabled vet right here who’s gonna blow everyone away. He was yelling loud enough where they could hear him on the other end of the phone.″

Then Gaskin told Cook to hang up the telephone and go into a nearby room and watch television, Cook said. ″Then he said he was gonna blow me away. I asked him, ‘Why me?’ He said because I was part of the political system. So I told him, ’Well, jeez, my term is up on Monday.‴

Gaskin left him in the television room, allowing Cook to leave and call troopers. Gaskin later left the building and headed upriver by boat, occasionally firing on pursuing villagers, Cook said.

Troopers said that when Gaskin landed in Emmonak, he fired on troopers was was shot in return.

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