May 17 marked the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of John Kavairlook Jr. outside of the Rock n Rodeo Bar in Fairbanks.
Based on witness accounts and video surveillance, police initially went after four suspects in connection to the incident. Two of those suspects have been apprehended and remain in custody, awaiting trial.
Even though one suspect is facing murder charges, the alleged shooter remains at large.
John Kavairlook was originally from the village of Koyuk. He graduated from the Galena Interior Learning Academy in 2010, and subsequently trained as a plumber in Fairbanks.
On May 16th,2015, he took his wife Shalene to the Rock N Rodeo on the Old Steese Highway in Fairbanks for their first night out after the birth of their daughter Kinley roughly a month earlier. Charging documents suggest that Kavairlook tried to defend his wife from one of the four suspects. A fight broke out in the bar, and the men were ejected.
Shortly after, in the parking lot, one of the suspects retrieved a 9 mm Glock pistol from a silver SUV and shot Kavairlook multiple times, before all 4 suspects fled the scene.
In October, U.S. Marshals and local police in Selma, Texas apprehended Anchorage’s Joel Roland Joseph, charging him with first and second degree murder in connection with Kavairlook’s death. At his arraignment in December, Joseph pled not guilty.
According to court documents, Joseph – despite the murder charges looming over him – is not the individual who allegedly pulled the trigger that night. Fairbanks Police Detective Peyton Merideth explained.
“You don’t have to be the shooter to be charged with murder, depending on what your actions were in the case,” Merideth said. “Each case is different, of course. His level of participation in the homicide, his level of culpability raised his level to that charge.”
Joseph’s attorney Steve Wells disagreed with Meredith.
“What they have done is charge him under a theory that he essentially aided or abetted or encouraged someone else to do that,” Wells said. “We dispute that.”
Instead, Wells claims that Joseph had no interest in elevating what began as a fight in the Rock n Rodeo Bar to a homicide.
“Our defense is that Joel Joseph didn’t want him dead, or didn’t solicit his death or encourage this death or do anything to aid or abet the other fellow who did pull the trigger,” Wells said.
The identity of the alleged shooter, who remains at large, has not been revealed publically.
If Joseph knows who fired the shots that killed Kavairlook, Wells said that he doesn’t have to tell.
“Anybody has a legal right not to provide that information, Wells said. “As far as whether Mr. Joseph has that information and the extent of what he knows – that is all part of what this case is about.”
Anchorage resident Demarius Hinson was also arrested in connection with the Kavairlook shooting. Police tracked him down in Orlando, Florida last October, and arrested him on charges of hindering prosecution.
Police also arrested Joel Joseph’s older brother David in Anchorage on charges of hindering prosecution. It was David Joseph’s 9mm handgun that was used in the shooting, which he reported to police as stolen, allegedly after a phone conversation between the Joseph brothers shortly after the incident.
That leaves two people who were allegedly involved in Kavairlook’s death unaccounted for – including the man who likely fired the gun. Multiple witnesses and video surveillance footage depict the men as African-Americans in their 20s or 30s, who traveled from Anchorage to Fairbanks shortly before the incident.
Detective Merideth said that the search for the at-large suspects continues.
“We are still trying to get information from the public to help identify these people,” Merideth said. “There could be things happening behind the scenes as well to get the identity of the other two people involved in the homicide. Everything is being done that can be done to try to identify the other two people and we are still very optimistic that the other two people will be identified.”
Both Hinson and Joel Joseph remain in custody at the Fairbanks Correctional Center. They are scheduled to stand trial for the homicide of John Kavairlook in August, though Wells is skeptical the trial will happen so soon after the initial arrests and indictments.