Lawsuits filed in lobstermen altercation

Man allegedly shot foe in the neck

By Clarke Canfield
Associated Press / July 30, 2009

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PORTLAND, Maine - A lobsterman fired his handgun at two fellow lobstermen while his daughter leveled her shotgun on the pair in a confrontation on Maine’s remote Matinicus Island, according to two lawsuits.

Vance Bunker, 68, is charged with elevated aggravated assault for allegedly shooting Christopher Young in the neck on July 20 in a dispute over lobster traps.

Young, who remains hospitalized, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Knox County Superior Court seeking damages from Bunker; Bunker’s daughter, Janan Miller; and her husband, Alan Miller. Young’s half brother, Weston Ames, also sued.

The complaints allege that Bunker and his daughter ambushed Young and Miller on the island wharf.

Bunker’s attorney, Philip Cohen, said Young and Ames had been threatening Bunker and his family for several days. Bunker had to use pepper spray to get Young off his boat earlier that day, he said.

“It was a case of self-defense and defense of his daughter,’’ Cohen said.

On the morning of the shooting, Ames and Young were on the Matinicus wharf as Alan Miller pulled up on his lobster boat with a Marine Patrol officer aboard.

Just then, Bunker showed up in his pickup truck and Janan Miller stepped out from behind a stack of lobster traps armed with a shotgun, according to the lawsuits. As Ames attempted to prevent Janan Miller from pointing the shotgun at him and Young, Bunker drew a handgun from his holster and fired at him, but missed, Ames’s lawsuit claims.

“Vance Bunker then turned, again took deliberate aim, this time at Christopher, and shot him in the neck,’’ the suit says.

The Marine Patrol officer arrested Bunker. Young was flown to the mainland, more than 20 miles away, and hospitalized.

In his complaint, Young said his hands are nearly paralyzed, he has limited control of his arms, and is in constant pain. He said he expects lost earnings of $2.4 million in his lifetime, based on average earnings of $100,000 a year.

Turf wars among Maine lobstermen are not uncommon, but it is unusual for them to result in gunfire.

Matinicus, which has about 50 year-round residents, has a reputation as a place where fishermen enforce their own brand of justice in disputes over territory.