Alaska Star logo
Alaska Job Net
share on facebook
Alaska Star on Facebook

Story Last modified at 10:53 p.m. on Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Charges reduced in Eagle River roulette death
Comrades remember soldier as understanding and strong

Alaska Star


Sgt. Michael McCloskey

The Eagle River soldier who provided the gun to a buddy killed in a drunken game of Russian roulette faces charges of manslaughter instead of murder.

Jacob D. Brouch, 25, pleaded not guilty last week. He remained in custody at Anchorage Jail as of Tuesday in lieu of $250,000 bail, though he's hoping to get that reduced as well.

Brouch and Sgt. Michael M. McCloskey, 26, were drinking at Brouch's Eagle River home when McCloskey shot himself in the stomach around 2 a.m. on March 6, Anchorage police said.

McCloskey at first objected to the game when Brouch began playing it during the afternoon, according to charging documents based on what Brouch told police. But, according to Brouch's account, McCloskey later asked for Brouch's .44-caliber Ruger revolver and also asked for a single round. He then spun the chamber and shot himself, the documents say.

Brouch's wife and two children were home at the time of the shooting, which took place on Dawn Street, off North Eagle River Loop Road.

The reduced charges against Brouch came after a grand jury that convened on March 15 indicted Brouch for manslaughter rather than murder, said Gustaf Olson, an assistant district attorney in Anchorage. At least 10 members of a grand jury need to vote in favor of a charge, Olson said. He couldn't say what the specific vote count was in the Brouch case.

Brouch's attorney could not be reached in time for this story.

The original charging documents cite the "extreme indifference" legal theory underpinning second-degree murder. The defendant doesn't need to know that what he's doing is "substantially certain to cause death or serious physical injury," the commentary states. Examples of such conduct might be shooting through a tent without knowing someone was inside, or persuading a person to play Russian roulette.

A person commits manslaughter if he "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes the death of another person ... (or) intentionally aids another person to commit suicide," according to Alaska statute.

Brouch was scheduled for a bail hearing March 23. A judge denied a previous request to be released to his wife's custody so he could go back to work, Olson said.


Spc. Matthew R. Withrow, a member of Sgt. Michael McCloskey's squad, speaks in memory of McCloskey during a memorial service March 18 at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Soldiers' Chapel.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson

The men served in the same U.S. Army unit at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, both of them horizontal construction engineers with the 84th Engineer Company (Airborne), 6th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.

McCloskey deployed twice to Iraq with the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, returning most recently in November 2009. A native of Beverly, N.J., he graduated from the Army Warrior Leader Course, Combat Lifesavers Course and Airborne Course.

McCloskey attended basic combat training at Fort Jackson, S.C., and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., according to U.S. Army Alaska. He was assigned to the 307th Engineer Battalion (Airborne) at Fort Bragg until 2006 when he was reassigned to the 82nd Airborne.

He arrived at JBER in March 2010, a month after Brouch did, military officials said.

Friends, fellow soldiers and family members held a memorial service for McCloskey on March 18 at the Soldiers' Chapel on base.

Capt. Bradley K. Pietzyk, commander of the 84th, remembered McCloskey as a proud paratrooper and strong soldier who could lighten the mood and raise his comrades' spirits in frustrating situations, according to an account of the memorial by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson, a public-affairs officer for the 3rd MEB .

"Right now we are all at our stepping-off point where, regardless if we want to or not, we move forward," Pietzyk said. "No one has to, and no one should, be left to bear this burden alone. This loss that is so deeply painful, especially to Michael's family and those of us fortunate enough to know him and love him, this loss must be borne by us all."

Spc. Matthew R. Withrow, a member of McCloskey's squad, called McCloskey a friend who "hated to see anyone down and was always there to lift a helping hand."

"He was understanding and could always relate to people," Withrow said. "I think I can speak for just about every one of us in the 84th when I say 'Rest in peace, Mac. Your time has come for you to leave us. The knowledge you taught us will live on and you will never be forgotten.'"

McCloskey leaves behind a son, Connor, a sister, four brothers and his parents, according to The Trentonian, a newspaper in his home state.

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, March 23, 2011.