Alaska man arrested for attempted murder tied to road rage, shooting incident

Published: Dec. 28, 2018 at 12:33 PM AKST
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The alleged shooter in a Willow road rage and shooting incident earlier this spring, which left one man paralyzed, was arrested for attempted murder and assault charges earlier this month.

The accused, William J. Stephens, 26, was arrested by Alaska State Troopers on Dec. 12, but the shooting took place on April 3. At that time, Stephens said he was acting in self-defense when the victim, Trent Wohlers, was shot inside his vehicle.

when Wohlers threatened to take his gun during a fight between the two men outside the Sunshine Community Health Center.

when Stephens fired several rounds at his car.

The road rage, and the shooting

Alaska State Troopers said the incident began with Stephens’ then-girlfriend, who was driving north on the Parks Highway that morning when, for an unknown reason, Wohlers began to follow her.

Wohlers and the woman took turns following each other in what troopers called "a road rage incident" which escalated between the two drivers.

Both cars pulled into the parking lot of the Sunshine Clinic in Willow, "where the female driver met with her boyfriend," AST wrote.

The girlfriend's car immediately left the lot, according to Wohlers' account, as a truck pulled in being driven by a man wielding a loaded 12-gauge shotgun, later identified as Stephens.

“He ran up toward my car door and as he did, he got about two feet from my car door, I swung at him one time and got his gun from him,” said Wohlers. He describes pointing the shotgun at the man, demanding he leave.

Wohlers says he then went back to his own car. Then, shots were fired, which resulted in Wohlers being medevaced to Anchorage, for gunshot wounds which ultimately left him paralyzed.

According to Wohlers, this occurred when Stephens “went into his truck and grabbed another gun and followed me back to my car. As I was driving away [Stephens] unloaded seven rounds into the side of my car."

"The second round hit me, at that point I felt my whole lower body go numb," Wohlers told KTUU.

Stephens himself also spoke to Channel 2 by phone last spring, but declined requests for a recorded phone interview. He said he was waiting to hear back from his lawyer at that time. He did, however, say that he acted in self-defense in the incident.

The arrest, and the charges

For months, troopers did not name Stephens as a suspect, and no arrests were made. It wasn't until December that Stephens was charged with attempted murder and other charges in connection to April's shooting.

Stephens was remanded into the custody of Mat-Su Pretrial on Dec. 12. Then, on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, court records show that Stephens attended a bail hearing, which was set at $10,000. On Dec. 26, he posted bail, and was released on a blanket bond, according to court records.

Also on Dec. 24, a 25-year-old woman filed a restraining order against Stephens, according to court records. The petition was granted in a temporary capacity, with a full domestic violence hearing on the case scheduled in January.

His pre-trial conference for the attempted murder is set for Jan. 25, 2019, and his trial is scheduled to begin on Feb. 22. He is charged with Attempted Murder in the 1st Degree, Assault in the 1st Degree and Assault in the 3rd Degree.