A Valparaiso man
has been charged with murder in the shooting death of a Kouts man on April
Bratcher, 34, of 3105 Black Partridge Lane, was charged on Friday with the
murder of Gerid Forste, 31.
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.
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.
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.’”
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.
findings prompted investigators to question Bratcher’s account of the
incident, Ballon stated in his affidavit.
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.”
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
“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.”
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.