Chesterton Tribune



Murder charge in death of Kouts man

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A Valparaiso man has been charged with murder in the shooting death of a Kouts man on April 2.

Abraham M. Bratcher, 34, of 3105 Black Partridge Lane, was charged on Friday with the murder of Gerid Forste, 31.

The shooting occurred around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday in Bratcher’s apartment. Bratcher himself called 911 and later told Valparaiso Police investigators that he shot Forste several times, in the course of an altercation, with an AR-15 style rifle belonging to his roommate.

Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris subsequently reported that Forste had been hit by three rounds, once in the chest--fatally--and twice in the legs.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed by Det. Jeff Balon, Bratcher gave this account of the events of that night:

Forste and his girlfriend and children had been visiting earlier in the evening but the latter left around 12 a.m. Forste spent the night and both he and Bratcher drank “large amounts” of alcohol and also smoked marijuana. “Bratcher said that the two of them were having an enjoyable night with Forste’s girlfriend and her kids,” Ballon stated. “After they left, Forste and Bratcher moved furniture and began break-dancing.”

Around 4:30 a.m., however, Forste began acting suspiciously. Bratcher followed Forste to the bathroom and confronted him and Forste removed a bottle of Bratcher’s cologne from his pocket. Bratcher told Forste to put it back and then went into his bedroom for a few minutes. On coming out again, he saw Forste holding an AR-15 rifle belonging to Bratcher’s roommate, Bratcher advised.

Bratcher “snatched the gun” from Forste and told Forste “to go into the living room,” where “Forste immediately approached him and the two had a tug of war with the gun,” Ballon stated. Bratcher advised “that at some point he wrestled it away ‘and fired.’”

Forste “indicated he had been shot,” then he died, Ballon stated. Bratcher first called his roommate “to tell him what happened” and then his father, who advised his son to hang up and call 911, which Bratcher did, approximately 20 minutes after Forste had been shot.

Three forensic findings prompted investigators to question Bratcher’s account of the incident, Ballon stated in his affidavit.

The first: approximately five feet away from Forste’s body investigators found gravity-directed blood droppings which had fallen “straight down, indicating that Forste was at some point shot a distance away from where Bratcher claimed the two were wrestling for the gun.”

The second: Forste’s body had stippling marks on the back of the left hand, inside the right wrist, and on the chest, indicating that the barrel of the gun had not been in direct contact with the victim but was instead at an “intermediate range” when fired.

The third finding: the oblique angle of the chest wound indicated that Forste had not been facing Bratcher directly but was turned, while “the raised hands with stippling and the position of the body indicate a possible “defensive posture.”

“Bratcher had no injuries as a result of any alleged dispute with Forste,” Ballon stated. “During statements given by Bratcher after having been advised of his rights, he acknowledged bringing out the gun to the living room area after he had taken it away from Forste in the master bedroom. He admitted to disengaging the safety during the tug of war. In some statements he indicated that he was scared but never explained why. Bratcher said that in the past Forste had been violent but that Forste was his friend and had not threatened his life that evening.”

“From information gathered from neighbors, there was a first shot followed by a slight gap in time and then several shots were fired in rapid succession,” Ballon stated.

Six shell casings were recovered at the scene, Ballon added.



Posted 4/7/2014