IDAHO FALLS – A man pleaded not guilty after allegedly shooting a man in the hand.
Frederick Marshall Free, 24, was charged with felony aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in May, after an altercation that allegedly ended with Free shooting Austin J. Kuck, 28, in the hand.
Kuck was later charged with felony aggravated assault and felony unlawful discharge of a firearm after reportedly shooting at a vehicle as Free drove away after the shooting.
According to court records, Idaho Falls police were dispatched to an area near the Idaho Falls LDS Temple on Memorial Drive on May 8 around 8 pm. Officers were told that there had been a shooting and that everyone involved had already fled. The man who had been shot, later identified as Kuck, was already at Idaho Falls Community Hospital with a gunshot wound to the hand.
Officers were told that Free was the one who contacted police. He told him that he was involved in the shooting and was now at an Idaho Falls home.
When Kuck was interviewed by police, he told them that he was suspicious of his ex-girlfriend and Free and thought they had broken into his home. He ended up confronting Free and his ex-girlfriend about the alleged break in, and found his DVR in Free’s truck. While arguing with Free, Kuck told police that Free pulled out a gun. Kuck said, “Are you going to shoot me?” to which Free reportedly responded “yes”, and shot him.
Kuck told police that he then ran back to his car and Free drove away. Kuck went back to his home, and a friend drove him to the hospital.
When officers interviewed Free, they were given the same version of the story. Free told police that Kuck threw the DVR at his truck. When officers asked him if Kuck had a weapon, Free said he “could not say that he did.”
Free told officers that he had a”fear for his safety” and shot Kuck because he had “reached for his pocket.” According to court records, Free reportedly believed that Kuck was reaching for a gun. He also told police that Kuck did not threaten him at any point.
When police interviewed Kuck’s ex-girlfriend who was with Free, she stated that she had seen Kuck with a gun earlier in the day and it was in his pocket. According to her, Kuck fired “5 or 6 shots” at the truck as they drove away from the area. Police went back to the hospital to interview Kuck again, where they told him that there was camera footage of the shooting.
Kuck told police that he “didn’t really want to say anything but if there was video then he would say it was self-defense.” The officer told Kuck that self-defense does not apply since the truck was driving away from him and he was not in any imminent danger. When asked what he did with the gun, Kuck said that he threw it out of his car in the area of Riverside Drive and US Highway 20 in Idaho Falls. The officer later searched the area and was not able to find the gun.
The next day, officers served a search warrant at a home in Idaho Falls where Free was believed to be staying. They discovered fentanyl in the bedroom, and Free, along with the ex-girlfriend, were charged with felony possession of a controlled substance.
Though Free and Kuck have been charged with these crimes, it does not necessarily mean they committed them. Everyone is presumed innocent until they are proven guilty.
Free is scheduled for a jury trial on Nov. 9. If convicted, he could spend up to 22 years in prison.
Kuck is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on July 19. If convicted, he could spend up to 30 years in prison.