A 68-year-old Matinicus lobsterman and his daughter took the stand the afternoon of March 10 and defended their actions in confrontations that led to a shooting of another lobsterman last July.

Edwin Vance Bunker was in the midst of his testimony when the trial ended for the day March 10 in Knox County Superior Court. The questioning by his attorney Philip Cohen had yet to get to the point of the shooting on Steamboat Wharf.

Bunker testified, however, that when 42-year-old Christopher Young of Owls Head boarded his lobsterboat earlier on the morning of July 20, he chose to use pepper spray rather than a gun he had on board to force the man off his boat because “I didn’t want to hurt him.”

Young was fined $500 last month for criminal trespass for going on Bunker’s boat that morning after being ordered off by Bunker and his sternman Tom Bernardi.

Bunker said he was scared by the actions of Young and went home and radioed his son-in-law Alan Miller to warn him.

“I figured they would go after him next,” Bunker said.

He said he then contacted the Maine Marine Patrol about the incident.

Bunker recounted an incident the day before in which Weston Ames, Young’s half brother, was at the dock holding an oak runner and yelling as Bunker and Miller arrived back on the dock after spending the day in Rockland getting supplies. Ames was upset about traps being cut, Bunker said.

Bunker said he did not cut the traps and neither did Miller.

Miller had been lobstering off Matinicus for about three weeks but was not welcomed into the fishing community.

Bunker’s daughter Janan Miller testified earlier in the afternoon. She noted how her husband had tried to fish off Matinicus several years ago but a group of other lobstermen who made decisions on entry into the territory voted not to allow him to lobster there.

After that, the couple purchased a home on the island and figured he could lobster there. He put traps out in June and immediately after that some people stopped waving when they passed.

“We got the cold shoulder,” Janan Miller said.

Then her husband’s traps began being picked off 10 or 15 at a time, she said.

Janan Miller told jurors that on the morning of July 20, she heard Young on the radio saying they were coming after her husband next.

She said she then learned about the incident involving Young accosting her father on his boat. She said she then heard Young again on the marine radio telling him to run and go back to Wheeler’s Bay. While her husband’s name was not mentioned specifically, she noted he had previously fished out of Wheeler’s Bay.

Miller said she then saw, from the window of her home, the tail end of the chase in which Young and Ames were chasing her husband in their lobsterboats.

“I was very upset; I was crying,” she said.

Miller said she went and grabbed her husband’s shotgun from the gun rack in the bedroom and went down to the dock where she saw Ames and Young waiting as her husband’s lobsterboat approached.

“I was concerned,” she said. “Things had escalated to the point that I worried my husband would be hurt.”

Miller said she heard Ames and Young yelling as her husband’s boat arrived at the dock. She said she was unaware that Marine Patrol Officer Wesley Dean was on her husband’s boat.

Miller ran down to the dock and came out from behind some stacked lobster traps and pointed the gun at Ames. She said she didn’t know if the gun was loaded or whether the safety was on, and added that she did not like shooting the larger guns.

Miller said both Ames and Young came at her and Ames shouted an obscenity and challenged her to shoot him as he grabbed for the barrel of the gun.

“I was scared when Weston got his hands on the gun,” Miller said.

Miller said she heard a shot and then a second shot and Young fell to the dock, almost at her feet.

Marine Patrol Officer Dean came on the dock and ordered everyone to drop their weapons and Miller put the shotgun down on some rope and her father dropped his pistol. She said she had noticed her father only a moment before the shooting and they had not arrived at the dock together.

She said she ran to the telephone on the dock and called 911.

Under cross examination by District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau, Miller was asked why she had not simply radioed her husband about Ames and Young being on the dock rather than going there with a shotgun.

“I could have and I should have,” she said.

Rushlau also questioned whether bringing a gun into the situation was excessive. She said that if someone used an oak runner they could do damage to a person.

“A shotgun tops all, doesn’t it,” Rushlau said.

Bunker has been charged with two counts of elevated aggravated assault for shooting Young as well as for criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and reckless conduct. Miller is on trial for reckless conduct. Bunker is represented by attorney Philip Cohen of Waldoboro. Miller is represented by attorney William Avantaggio.

Bunker’s son-in-law Alan Miller, 60, of Spruce Head and Matinicus took the witness stand as the defense portion of the trial began March 10.

He testified that tensions began shortly after he started fishing off the island around July 1, 2009.

“Nobody wanted me to set my gear in Matinicus,” he told the court.

He said votes were taken on the issue in meetings that summer. He said that as he started fishing, he kept losing traps.

“I had quite a few traps,” he said. “I thought I’d ride out the storm. Paying dues, that’s what they call it.”

He testified that Ames threatened to assault him and tried to pick a fight with him on the dock on July 19 after Miller had gone to the mainland for the day with his father-in-law.

Miller said Ames accused him of cutting Ames’ traps. Miller said he told the other man he didn’t want to fight with him. After the incident, Miller said he called the Maine Marine Patrol and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office seeking to have Ames arrested for threatening to kill him. He said police would not come to the island.

In addition, Miller said his wife helped him submit a written statement to police about the incident via fax.

He said that on July 20, he was out hauling traps on the water when Bunker called him over VHF, warning him to “keep a lookout. They say they’re coming after you next.”

“I kept right on hauling,” Miller said.

Later he said he spotted boats belonging to Ames and Young on the water and they started coming toward him. Miller said that when he saw the lobsterboats coming toward him, he turned his boat toward them.

Asked why he did this, he said, “I didn’t know what they were going to do. I was trying to get back to the harbor.”

He said Ames, Young and a third boat began to chase him. At one point, he said, he had Ames’ boat on one side of him and Young’s boat on the other, as close as within six inches of his vessel.

He said the other men were hollering and threatening him. He described their demeanor as “ugly.”

Miller said there was a section of the water with dangerous ledges that the fishermen try to avoid. He said Young was trying to push Miller’s boat onto these ledges.

Miller testified that he called the Marine Patrol for help and after the other boats broke off from the chase, he met up with a Marine Patrol vessel. Maine Marine Patrol Officer Dean boarded Miller’s boat and hid in it as Miller approached Steamboat Wharf.

There, Miller said, he was confronted by Young and Ames, who he said were threatening to beat him up. He said he told them he didn’t want to fight with them and they were trying to grab at him.

As the confrontation continued, Miller said, he saw his wife, Janan Miller, come onto the dock with a shotgun.

“Things happened so fast,” Alan Miller said.

He said he saw Young and Ames go toward his wife and Miller hollered for Officer Dean to do something.

“You better get out here quick,” Miller said he told Dean.

“He didn’t come tearing right out,” Miller said. “I let another bellow out for him to come out.”

Miller said he then reached for a .44 magnum revolver he had on his boat.

“They were grabbing her,” he said. “I heard the shot.” He said Young then went down.

Bunker fired his weapon at Ames’ head, barely missing him, before firing at Young’s head and hitting him in the neck, according to District Attorney Rushlau.

Miller said he never got his gun. He said at that point Dean hit him with the door on his way through.

Miller testified that he owned the pump-action shotgun that his wife had on the dock that day and that he kept it loaded with bird shot at his home at all times, often with a round chambered. He said he used the gun to shoot seagulls that would steal food off his deck while he was eating with his family.

During the cross examination, Rushlau asked about the .44 that Miller had on his boat.

“Isn’t that the gun that Clint Eastwood made famous?” Rushlau asked.

The defense attorney objected and Justice Jeffrey Hjelm sustained the objection.

Rushlau asked if it was a high-powered weapon and the defense questioned the relevance of the question.

Miller testified that it was customary for lobstermen to keep guns on their boats and that he normally had a shotgun on board for shooting seagulls. He said he brought the revolver that morning because he was concerned about what was going to happen, given the confrontation the day before.

Rushlau asked why he would need a second weapon in addition to the shotgun he normally carried.

“A shotgun in a small area isn’t no good to you,” Miller said.

Before the jury was brought in March 10, the court dealt with a motion from the defense seeking to reduce the number of people potentially threatened with the shotgun from five to two. This would have partially acquitted Janan Miller of her reckless conduct charge. The defense attorney argued that three of the five people listed were not in immediate danger or range of what was happening.

Hjelm denied the motion.

Hjelm denied a request by Rushlau to limit the amount of testimony that could be brought up during the defense about the criminal history or past of Ames and Young. Rushlau argued it was an attempt to influence the jury by painting Young and Ames as bad characters who deserved to be hurt. He said Ames’ history of having a prison term had nothing to do with violence and Young’s history only showed issues with substance abuse that were not relevant to the case.

Hjelm decided the defense could bring up these issues if it helped in establishing the state of mind of the defendants who were arguing they acted in self-defense and defense of other people.

The trial is expected to go to the jury on Thursday, March 11.