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James Dale RITCHIE






A.K.A.: "Anchorage Serial Killer"
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: It was unclear why authorities were not revealing any information about how they determined when Ritchie had possession of the revolver, any possible motives for the crimes or pre-existing relationships between Ritchie and the victims, and his activities in Anchorage in the period before, during and after the murders
Number of victims: 5
Date of murder: July 3 - August 28, 2016
Date of birth: November 4, 1976
Victims profile: Brianna Foisy, 20, and Jason Netter Sr., 41 / Treyveonkindell Bobby Dwayne Thompson, 21 / Kevin S. Turner, 34, and Bryant C. De Husson, 25
Method of murder: Shooting (.357 Colt Python)
Location: Anchorage, Alaska, USA
Status: Ritchie was killed during a shootout with members of the Anchorage Police Department in downtown Anchorage on November 12, 2016
photo gallery

James Dale Ritchie (November 4, 1976 – November 12, 2016), known in the media as the "Anchorage Serial Killer", was an American serial killer. Throughout 2016, he murdered upwards of five individuals in and around Anchorage, Alaska, most of whom were in parks or along bike paths.

Ritchie was killed during a shootout with members of the Anchorage Police Department in downtown Anchorage on November 12, 2016. Following his death, a Colt Python handgun on his person connected him to the string of murders he committed throughout the year.

Personal history

James Dale Ritchie grew up in the Wonder Park neighborhood of Anchorage, Alaska. He attended East Anchorage High School, where he was noted as being a standout athlete, having played on the 1994 state championship football and basketball teams alongside future professional athletes Trajan Langdon and Mao Tosi.

Ritchie scored 1200 on his SAT, was recruited by West Virginia University football team and left for college, after which he fell out of contact with his family.

After a semester at West Virginia University, Ritchie dropped out and returned to Alaska and became involved in drug trade and dog fighting in 1995.

By 1998, Ritchie was an active drug dealer and had adopted the street name "Tiny". Over the following seven years, Ritchie was arrested a number of times, predominantly for drug-related offenses. He was arrested for the last time in Alaska in 2005, when he was apprehended while committing home invasion, with plastic handcuffs and two handguns in his possession.

After serving two years in custody, he resided in Alaska until 2013, after which he moved to Broadway, Virginia, where his parents had been living at the time. Save for a pair of moving violations, Ritchie had no court appearances and was observed by the police as being a law-abiding citizen. Following a breakup with his girlfriend, he returned to Alaska in March 2016.


Ritchie committed his first two confirmed murders during the early morning hours of July 3, 2016, when he shot Brianna Foisy (21) and Jason Netter Sr. (41) The two bodies were discovered together along a bike path near Ship Creek by a bicyclist at 7:45 a.m.

Netter was noted for having extensive run-ins with the law, often regarding his drug-related activity, as well as his child support issues with his two daughters, one of whom changed her name. Foisy was homeless and had fallen into substance abuse as well, with her denying intervention offered by her adoptive mother, Marcella Foisy. The nature of Foisy and Netter Sr.'s relationship was not determined or disclosed.

On July 5, the deaths of Foisy and Netter were ruled a double homicide by the Anchorage Police Department. After reviewing hours of surveillance footage, the Anchorage Police Department released images of two unidentified men who were persons of interest for the investigation.

The third recorded murder committed by Ritchie took place twenty-six days later, on July 29. Shortly after 3 a.m., Ritchie shot the son of his childhood friend Bobby Thompson, twenty-one year-old Treyveonkindell Thompson, multiple times while he was riding his bicycle home from work, between Duben Avenue and Bolin Street, in East Anchorage. Awoken by the sound of gunfire, several residents in the area spotted Ritchie and subsequently called the police. Grabbing Thompson's bicycle, Ritchie wheeled it away from the scene and brought it to his home, where it was spotted but not identified as being involved in a crime by witnesses.

The police arrived at Bolin Street, where they found Thompson, who was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after. Under Sergeant Slawomir Markiewicz's direction, witnesses were interviewed and enough testimonials were given that a composite sketch of the suspect – who would later be positively identified as Ritchie – was created. Shortly after Thompson's murder, the Alaska State Crime Lab confirmed that the same murder weapon responsible for Foisy and Netter, Sr.'s murders was also responsible for Thompson's murder.

During the early hours of August 28, Ritchie shot dead thirty-four year-old Kevin Turner and twenty-five year-old Bryant De Husson in the Valley of the Moon park. An undisclosed female passerby who was walking through the park discovered De Husson's body along the trail at 1:42 a.m. Shortly after arriving, police discovered Turner's bullet-riddled body under the pavilion in the park.

Turner, suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, was homeless at the time, as he had not fared well at assistant living facilities recently. De Husson, a notable environmental activist in Anchorage, was suspected by his father Gordon De Husson to be doing a late night bicycle ride on his new Schwinn to meet a friend, when he encountered the fatal encounter between Ritchie and Turner. There was no relation between De Husson and Turner.

In the police report, the Anchorage Police Department noted that there was very little evidence left at the scene of the crime. However, the Alaska State Crime Lab confirmed that the murder weapon used to kill Turner and De Husson had also been used in the Foisy, Netter and Thompson homicides.

Recognizing a modus operandi displayed by the string of murders, the Anchorage Police Department released an advisory notice for citizens to avoid isolated trails after dark. Following the murders of Turner and De Husson, Federal Bureau of Investigation was brought on to assist with the investigation.

On September 6, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz hosted a press conference that addressed that gang violence was largely responsible for the record-breaking number of murders in the city, though he refused to acknowledge the evidence lending towards the serial killer theory.

The FBI offered a $10,000 reward leading to the apprehension of the suspect responsible for Thompson's murder, while refusing to comment on any connection to the other murders, due to the concern that acknowledging that a weapon tying all the crimes together would run the risk of prompting the killer to dispose of it. The joint APD and FBI task force subsequently received upwards of 175 tips over the following two months – none of which pertained to Ritchie.


James Dale Ritchie was killed near the corner of 5th Street and Cordova Street in Anchorage, during a gunfight with Officer Arn Salao and Sergeant Marc Patzke of the Anchorage Police Department on November 12, 2016.

Officer Salao, while responding to an unrelated report of unpaid taxi cab fares, spotted Ritchie walking down the street at 4:30 a.m. Salao pulled up alongside Ritchie and asked if he had spotted the crime. Ritchie continued walking prompting Salao to repeat the question over his megaphone.

Without warning, Ritchie drew his Colt Python and opened fire on Salao, hitting him at least four times, which resulted in damage to his bones, intestines and liver. Salao exited his patrol car and returned fire while also engaging Ritchie in a physical confrontation. Simultaneously, Sergeant Patzke of the K9 Unit spotted the confrontation and fired upon Ritchie, who was killed by a number of gunshot wounds. Salao was taken to an area hospital, where he was moved out of the intensive care unit after seven hours of surgery.


Following James Dale Ritchie's death, the Colt Python on his person was sent to the Alaska Crime Lab, where it was confirmed to have been the murder weapon responsible for the deaths of Brianna Foisy, Jason Netter Sr., Treyveonkindell Thompson, Kevin Turner and Bryant De Husson. The investigative task force had not considered Ritchie a suspect, due to his lack of run-ins with the law over the decade prior.

After seventy-eight hours of investigation and contacting the victims' families, Anchorage Police Department Chief Chris Tolley hosted a press conference in which he announced the connection between the homicides and the attempt on Officer Salao's life.

Additionally, Lieutenant John McKinnon confirmed that the investigation had revealed a connection between the murders, but the task force withheld it from the public, out of concern that Ritchie would have disposed of the Colt Python had he realized it was being sought.

The weapon, which had been purchased in 1971, was not registered to Ritchie- the original owner was questioned by the Anchorage Police Department, with the intent of discovering how it found its way into Ritchie's possession.

Ritchie was immediately identified as being the assailant responsible for Thompson's murder, due to the witnesses and the identification of his photo identification matching the composite sketch. While the Anchorage Police Department continued to collect evidence implicating Ritchie's involvement in the other homicides tied to the Colt Python, the FBI looked to trace Ritchie's activities in Virginia and Nevada, prior to returning to Alaska in 2016.

On April 26, 2017, Anchorage Police Department spokesperson Renee Oistad announced that sufficient probable cause was determined to confirm that Ritchie was solely responsible for the five murders and therefore, a confirmed serial killer. Investigators had traced the Colt Python handgun's whereabouts back to confirm that it had found its way into Ritchie's possession prior to the murders of Foisy and Netter in July 2016. With Oistad's announcement, the cases were closed.

Known victims

Through ballistics, Ritchie's Colt Python was connected with four crime scenes that include two double homicides, one homicide and the attempted murder of a police office. The victims include:

Brianna Foisy, 20, and Jason Netter Sr., 41: shot and killed on July 3, 2016, along a bike path near Ship Creek, west of N Post Road and Viking Drive, east of Anchorage.

Treyveonkindell Bobby Dwayne Thompson, 21: shot and killed on Bolin Street on July 29, 2016, in East Anchorage.

Kevin S. Turner, 34, and Bryant C. De Husson, 25: shot and killed on August 28, 2016, at Valley of the Moon Park, in Downtown Anchorage.

Officer Arn Salao: shot and wounded on November 12, 2016 at 5th Street and Cordova Street, in Downtown Anchorage. Salao and Sergeant Marc Patzke returned fire and killed Ritchie.



Man who died in shootout with Anchorage officers last year was a serial killer, police say

Annie Zak - Alaska Dispatch News

April 26, 2017

A man who was killed in November in a shootout with an Anchorage police officer was behind five homicides — including two double murders — in the city last summer, police said Wednesday.

Homicide detectives with the Anchorage Police Department "have established sufficient probable cause" to conclude that James Dale Ritchie, 40, was responsible for those killings, according to a statement released Wednesday morning.

Officials with APD and the FBI did not provide any additional information on the investigation beyond that statement Wednesday, despite repeated requests. Each agency referred questions to the other.

"The revolver Ritchie had in his possession in November was linked to five homicides cases as the murder weapon," APD spokeswoman Renee Oistad wrote. "Homicide detectives were able to establish Ritchie possessed the .357 Colt Python before any of the killings and that he acted alone."

All investigations into Ritchie are now closed, she added.

In November, police said Ritchie fired six rounds at officer Arn Salao in a shootout that began after Salao contacted Ritchie early on the morning of Nov. 12 after a call about an unpaid cab fare in downtown Anchorage. Ritchie opened fire on the officer, police said, leading to Salao and Sgt. Marc Patzke returning fire and killing Ritchie near Fifth Avenue and Cordova Street.

The five homicides from last summer that Ritchie has been found responsible for are:

• The July 3 killings of Brianna Foisy, 20, and Jason Netter Sr., 41, on a bike path near Ship Creek;

• The July 29 death of 21-year-old Treyveonkindell Thompson on Bolin Street in East Anchorage;

• The double homicide of Kevin S. Turner, 34, and Bryant "Brie" DeHusson, 25, on the morning of Aug. 28 at Valley of the Moon Park.

Police had previously concluded that Ritchie killed Thompson, but the investigation into the two double murders had remained open.

It was unclear why authorities were not revealing any information about how they determined when Ritchie had possession of the revolver, any possible motives for the crimes or pre-existing relationships between Ritchie and the victims, and his activities in Anchorage in the period before, during and after the murders.

Staci Feger-Pellessier, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Anchorage, said in a text message Wednesday afternoon that APD was the lead investigative agency, despite APD saying earlier in the day that additional requests for information should go through the FBI.

Feger-Pellessier said the FBI "provided safe street task force members and help from our Behavioral Analysis Unit" in the investigation, but would not provide further details.

"I can't answer why they (APD) referred to us" for questions, Feger-Pellessier said via text.

In an email just after 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oistad said "all involved agencies are declining to further comment on these cases," and APD "does not wish to discuss investigative techniques that could potentially interfere or compromise future investigations."


'I've ruined my life': Suspect in officer shooting was East High grad with criminal record

Ben Anderson, Michelle Theriault Boots -

November 15, 2016

A gun used to shoot a police officer Saturday morning was the same weapon used in at least five homicides in the city so far this year, including two unsolved double homicides, Anchorage police said Tuesday (Nov. 15).

The Anchorage Police Department officer who was wounded, Arn Salao, was shot four times and underwent two surgeries after the confrontation, but was recovering and expected to survive. The suspect, 40-year-old James Dale Ritchie, was killed after Salao and Sgt. Marc Patzke — who arrived during the shootout — returned fire, police said.

"We know from our investigation in the last 78 hours that the gun used to attempt to kill officer Salao was the same gun used in five other homicides here in Anchorage in 2016," APD Chief Chris Tolley said at a news conference Tuesday.

Those five homicides are:

• The July 3 killings of Brianna Foisy, 20, and Jason Netter Sr., 41, on a bike path near Ship Creek;

• The July 29 death of 21-year-old Treyveonkindell Thompson on Bolin Street in East Anchorage;

• The double homicide of Kevin S. Turner, 34, and Bryant "Brie" DeHusson, 25, early on the morning of Aug. 28 at Valley of the Moon Park.

Tolley previously described Saturday's shooting as an "ambush" that came as the officer responded to a report of a theft suspect. Salao was shot while he was still inside his patrol vehicle, APD spokesperson Jennifer Castro said.

Castro stressed Tuesday that although the gun used to shoot Salao — a Colt Python .357 — had been linked to the five homicides, police were still investigating Ritchie's possible ties to those crimes.

It wasn't clear if Ritchie, an East Anchorage High School graduate, had any connection to any of the victims in the summer homicides.

"We still have not linked the suspect to these cases, so we still have more work to do," she said.

"Our investigations are open," said Lt. John McKinnon, head of APD's homicide and robbery/assault units. "The big thing is that the cases are still pending and we'll follow the evidence wherever it goes, and we'll make determinations on what cases we can or cannot close at a future date."

Police said Tuesday another as-yet-unsolved double homicide, which took place in January at Point Woronzof, was not connected to the other homicides.

Who was James Ritchie?

James Dale Ritchie grew up in East Anchorage and was a standout athlete at East Anchorage High School. He and his two sisters and parents lived in a home in the Wonder Park neighborhood, public records show.

At East, Ritchie was an offensive lineman on the 1994 state championship football team, according to news articles from the time. He also played on the state championship basketball team. Teammates remember him utilizing his 6-foot, 3-inch frame as a power forward.

"There were colleges looking at him in high school," said Donteh DeVoe, a former basketball teammate who played alongside Ritchie at East. "He had potential to go on to the NFL. He was a great athlete."

"He was a happy, positive person in high school. It's shocking to me," said Mao Tosi, another high school teammate.

Ritchie graduated from East in 1994, the same year Arn Salao — the Anchorage police officer injured in Saturday's fatal encounter — was attending the school as a freshman. It wasn't clear if the two men were acquainted with each other.

After high school, Ritchie's athletic dreams were derailed by drugs and a felony record. His first encounter with police occurred in 1998, four years after he graduated.

According to charging documents in that case, officers following up on a drug sale investigation encountered Ritchie in an Anchorage apartment. Ritchie, whom officers greeted by his street name of "Tiny," immediately reached for his waistband when officers came into the apartment. A loaded semiautomatic handgun fell out of his pant leg, according to charging documents.

A search revealed ammunition on Ritchie, along with a number of folded bills and a baggie filled with several rocks of crack cocaine. Officers also found an electronic scale in the bedroom and the owner of the apartment told police Ritchie and her son were apparently selling drugs.

Ritchie pleaded no contest to felony misconduct involving a controlled substance in the third degree. He was sentenced to three years probation.

In a letter to the judge in his case, Ritchie wrote that he "lay in bed every night thinking about how I've ruined my life. Then I sit up crying wishing I could go back to when I was in high school."

Ritchie wrote he would have "chosen a small Division II school to go play football at instead of a Division I college."

"I want to finish college, raise a family and buy a house," he wrote. "Instead as a felon I'll never be able to get a good job."

It's not clear whether Ritchie actually played college football.

There was more trouble to come.

On parole in 1999, Ritchie was pulled over for driving erratically near Columbine Street and DeBarr Road. Ritchie told officers he had been drinking tequila and beer and taken two Prozac pills. Officers found crack in the glove box and a loaded .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun in the passenger seat, as well as an open beer on the passenger floor of the car, court records show.

Ritchie again pleaded no contest to fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance. He was sentenced to three years probation.

In the year 2000, Ritchie filed for a business license for a vending machine servicing operation called Ritchie Enterprises, using his parents' address. It's unclear whether it got off the ground.

From 2002 to 2005, Ritchie was arrested several times for parole violations, mostly serving time for those violations in halfway houses, according to state Department of Corrections spokesperson Corey Allen-Young.

In 2005, Ritchie was arrested for first-degree burglary after police responded to a report of an East Anchorage break-in. Officers found a large wad of money on Ritchie totaling almost $5,500 and eight zip ties in his front coat tied into a set of "flex cuffs." Two guns were later found in the house occupants of the residence said did not belong to them.

Ritchie pleaded no contest in the case. Allen-Young said Ritchie spent just over two years in custody before being released on Nov. 16, 2007.

Ritchie had not been in correctional custody in Alaska since then, Allen-Young said.

The last time Ritchie applied for a Permanent Fund dividend was in 2009, according to public records. The last time he had a listed address in Anchorage was a house on Lane Street, in the Russian Jack neighborhood, in 2011.

It appears he spent some time in Virginia after that, where his parents live in Broadway, a small town not far from the West Virginia border.

Court records in Harrisonburg/Rockingham District Court show minor traffic infractions for Ritchie in 2013 and 2014.

Police said Tuesday Ritchie returned to Alaska this February.

On his Facebook page, he posted pictures at the end of January from travels around the Lower 48. Police are still investigating where Ritchie was living in recent months.

He was not homeless, and may have resided at more than one location, said Castro.

"We are hoping to get more information from the community about his daily whereabouts and activities," she said.

Reached separately by phone, Ritchie's mother and sister declined to speak on Tuesday.

"The last time I'd seen him was at a restaurant about a year ago," said DeVoe, Ritchie's former Thunderbirds basketball teammate. "He still looked young and healthy. It seemed like we were back in high school."

It was a brief encounter that ended with a smile and a hug, DeVoe said.

Rumors and fact

Authorities had been tight-lipped about a number of unsolved Anchorage homicides this year, despite the involvement of the FBI and widespread rumors a serial killer was roaming the city or that some of the killings were linked.

Witness accounts allowed police to create a sketch of a "person of interest" in the Treyveonkindell Thompson case. The FBI offered a $10,000 reward in early September for information in the case that generated more than 175 tips, according to an investigative timeline released by police on Tuesday. Police had also canvassed neighborhoods and homeless camps in areas near the shootings.

The State Crime Lab determined "a few days" after Thompson was killed that the same gun was used in the deaths of Foisy, Netter and Thompson, Castro said. That information was not made public.

After the Valley of the Moon killings, police determined the same gun was used again. At that point, "police still did not know who the shooter was or if there was more than one," according to the investigative timeline. Tuesday marked the first time police publicly acknowledged Turner and DeHusson had been shot.

Police say they withheld the fact that the same gun had been used in the five homicides — even from the families of the victims — over concerns releasing it would compromise the investigation.

McKinnon said police were trying to preserve the evidence — a strategy he believes led to the recovery of the gun after Saturday's shooting.

"If we had made a big deal about it, then it might have gotten lost or disposed of," McKinnon said.

"Without the ballistics and that gun, we had no evidential way of tying these cases together," Castro said. "That's how important that gun is."

The victims' families found out about the connection between cases prior to a Tuesday morning press conference, according to Billy Ray Turner, Kevin Turner's brother.

On Monday night, police contacted Kevin Turner's family and told them to come to a conference the next morning, said Billy Ray Turner. It was the first time they'd heard from law enforcement since shortly after his brother was killed at Valley of the Moon, he said.

Billy Ray Turner said he initially searched for answers in his brother's death, but detectives told him not to go digging. They weren't specific about details, but he said they told him if Kevin Turner was killed in such cold-blooded fashion, Billy Ray might be in danger if he came in contact with the person responsible.

His mother worried about the same scenario, so he stood down.

He started to think his brother's homicide investigation had turned cold, and another family could lose a loved one with the killer still on the streets, he said.

He said his family was hurt APD didn't provide details sooner, particularly how Kevin Turner died.

That's something he still hopes to find out.

"I want to know where was he shot, how long was he alive, did he suffer? These are the things I'd like to know," Billy Ray Turner said, adding he hoped the new evidence would serve as a turning point for more transparency in the case.

In late August, a notice went out to the public to avoid isolated trails or roads alone at night, though APD declined at that time to say if the warning was related to any of the recent homicides.

"We were trying to balance the best of both worlds without jeopardizing a case or investigation," Castro said of the warning.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said police briefed him Monday afternoon on the revelation about the weapon used in the five unsolved homicides. He said he was previously unaware of any connection between the slayings.

Berkowitz said he had "actively stayed away" from pursuing information from police about the cases, citing his two years of experience in the Anchorage district attorney's office in the early 1990s.

"I think it's inappropriate for the civilian authority to intervene in a police investigation," Berkowitz said.

Berkowitz also said he did not think the police erred in withholding the information, or inappropriately prioritized an investigation over public safety.

"I would suspect that the police had access to all kinds of psychological understandings of what a person who is engaged in this kind of behavior would do and how they would behave, and shaped their investigation accordingly," Berkowitz said.

He added: "I think it's a vast oversimplification to think that the police should have compromised their investigation simply to inform the public about the course of their investigation. There's a real possibility the wrong communication at the wrong time could have jeopardized public safety."

Reporters Chris Klint, Suzanna Caldwell and Jerzy Shedlock contributed to this report.


Anchorage officer wounded in shooting is recovering, police say

Michelle Theriault Boots - Alaska Dispatch News

November 14, 2016

A police officer shot in his patrol car in downtown Anchorage early Saturday was in stable condition Sunday night.

The officer, whose name has not been released, underwent two surgeries for "multiple gunshot wounds" on Saturday, said Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Castro. On Sunday, he was recovering in a local hospital, she said.

The suspect in Saturday's incident was killed in gunfire from police. Police are still trying to notify his next-of-kin, and no name had been released as of Sunday night.

The incident is the second time in a month an Alaska police officer has been taken by surprise by gunshots as they were arriving at a call. It has unsettled police ranks already on edge, said Sgt. Gerard Asselin, the president of the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association.

"It's a tenuous situation for our folks who see this on a national level, who less than three weeks ago saw it in Fairbanks and now it's right here affecting our own department," Asselin said Sunday.

The attack drew parallels to the still-raw death of a Fairbanks police officer. In that incident, Sgt. Allen Brandt was shot as he responded to a report of gunfire in downtown Fairbanks Oct. 16. Brandt later died after complications from a surgery to remove bullet fragments from his eye.

Many facts about Saturday's shooting have not been publicly disclosed by police, or are still under investigation.

Here's what police have said happened.

An APD officer was on a downtown patrol in the early hours of Saturday morning when a call came in to police dispatch reporting a theft suspect around the area of Fifth Avenue and Cordova Street, a quiet stretch of a major downtown thoroughfare.

As the officer was "initiating a stop" a man with a gun "approached the patrol car and started firing at the officer," hitting him multiple times, according to police. The officer fired back. The call came in about the shooting at 4:36 a.m., police have said. Another officer arrived as the shooting was happening and also fired at the suspect, who was declared dead at the scene.

On Sunday, nothing was left on the sidewalk outside the Office Depot at Fifth Avenue and Cordova Street but a scattering of crushed glass on the sidewalk.

Police have not released the name of the suspect, or any details about his background or motive. It is also not clear whether the man who shot at the officer was the person described by the caller as the thief suspect.

At a Saturday news conference, police chief Christopher Tolley described the shooting as an "ambush." The officer was shot while he was still inside his patrol vehicle, wrote Castro in an email. Police are still investigating whether the officer was lured to the area on purpose, she said.

Anchorage police have dashcam footage of the shooting unfolding. Releasing it would have pros and cons, Castro said. Such footage can support what the department has said about an incident. But it "can show horrific events and you have to consider how your residents feel about seeing something like that as well as the family and loved ones of the people who were involved."

No determination has been made about whether the footage will be released, she said.

Anchorage police don't ride in pairs but typically arrive at calls involving weapons or the threat of violence with a second unit for backup, according to Castro.

In this case, Asselin said, there was no warning at all.

"This was a simple theft and this officer was in a battle for his life."


Anchorage police officer shot multiple times and survives; suspect killed

Alaska Dispatch News

November 13, 2016

An Anchorage police officer was shot multiple times downtown early Saturday and a suspect was shot and killed, police said.

The police officer, who has not been identified, was in surgery late Saturday afternoon, an Anchorage Police Department spokesperson said, adding the officer was expected to survive.

The person who was shot and killed has not been identified.

APD Chief Chris Tolley described the shooting, in the area of Fifth Avenue and Cordova Street, as "a clear and intentional ambush" as the officer responded to a report of a theft.

The shooting was recorded on video, Tolley said: "It's horrific. It is really sad."

The state Office of Special Prosecutions is investigating the shooting to determine if officers' use of force was justified. APD is consulting with prosecutors about whether to release the vehicle's dashcam video of the incident, said spokesperson Jennifer Castro.

In a written statement, APD said the officer was responding to "a report of a theft suspect who was on foot" near Fifth Avenue and Cordova Street.

"As the officer was initiating a stop, a male brandishing a gun approached the patrol car and started firing at the officer," the police statement said.

"The officer was shot multiple times and also returned fire. Another APD officer arrived as shots were being fired and that officer also shot at the suspect," the statement continued. "Additional officers responded and rendered aid to the injured officer and the suspect. The suspect was declared deceased at the scene."

The shootings were first reported at 4:36 a.m., police said.

Tolley told reporters officers arrived almost immediately.

"This officer was attempting to identify an individual potentially involved in a theft," he said. "And almost immediately, the person this officer came in contact with ambushed the officer. Totally surprised the officer…This officer took quick action and almost immediately, other officers arrived on the scene. And even though the officer was shot multiple times, officers returned fire and subdued the suspect. Once they got the suspect under control, our officers tried to save this individual's life. They were unsuccessful and the individual died there at the scene."

The police chief said investigators were trying to piece together information about the suspect. Police also were interviewing possible witnesses, he said.

Fifth Avenue, a main downtown east-west thoroughfare, was closed between Denali and Barrow streets most of the morning, with two blocks sealed off by crime-scene tape. Detectives were seen placing yellow evidence markers on the southwest corner of Fifth and Cordova around 11 a.m.; other officers stood at the edge of the crime scene.

Fifth Avenue reopened around 2 p.m.

Last month, a Fairbanks police officer, Sgt. Allen Brandt, was shot as he drove on a street there. He died of complications during surgery several days later. A man accused in the shooting has been charged with murder.

"We're seeing this across our state. We're seeing this across our nation and around the world," Tolley said. People choosing a criminal lifestyle and perpetrating violence against law enforcement is "unfortunate," he said.

Tolley emphasized the continuing efforts to grow the city's police force. The department has 387 sworn officers, and 27 of those officers are going through the department's academy, Castro said.

"It is so critical that we get to the staffing levels to make the streets as safe as possible, because ultimately that is the goal," Chief Tolley said.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who attended Saturday morning's news conference, has set a goal to reach a total of 400 officers during his administration.

Sgt. Gerard Asselin, president of the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association said APD is emerging from a difficult time. The department has not had the resources to thoroughly investigate crimes like theft, he said.

"I wouldn't say the city is unsafe," Asselin said. "But we're appreciative of the efforts to grow the department and make the city that much safer."


Unsolved Homicides in Anchorage Alarm Residents and Baffle Police

By The Associated Press - The New York Times

September 3, 2016

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A rash of unsolved outdoor homicides in Alaska’s largest city is putting residents on edge.

Altogether, the deaths of nine people who were killed on Anchorage trails, in parks or on isolated streets since January remain unsolved — among them three cases involving two victims each.

“It’s terrifying,” said Jennifer Hazen, a longtime resident who lives near Valley of the Moon Park, where two people were found dead early last Sunday, one of them on a park bike trail. Ms. Hazen said she walked in the park regularly and found some comfort in knowing that the unsolved homicides occurred in the middle of the night when she would not be out there, anyway.

“I’m just really shocked about all this happening,” said another resident, Yegor Christman, as he walked his dog on the bike trail. “I thought I lived in a pretty safe area.”

Adding to the feeling of vulnerability, Anchorage has had 25 homicides this year. That is the same number the city had for the entire year in 2015. Even though the number is high, the police point out that 1995, with 29 homicides, had the highest numbers in the past two decades.

With 15 homicides since late June, the Anchorage Police Department issued an unusual public advisory last week urging residents to be “extra aware” of their surroundings, noting that crimes often increase at night and early in the morning.

“A.P.D. wants to remind our citizens to be cautious when they are out during these hours, especially if they are in isolated areas like our parks, bike trails or unoccupied streets,” the Police Department wrote. “If you plan to be out late at night, make sure you travel with several friends and not alone.”

Chief Chris Tolley played down the significance of the advisory, saying that the police often remind the public to be safe, sometimes through a text messaging system.

This year, the police issued a similar safety alert after a series of car break-ins and thefts, Chief Tolley said. The goal was the same in this week’s advisory, to inform the public.

In two of the unsolved cases, the victims were shot and found alone. The police will not say how the victims died in the rest of the cases, and they will not say what details have been shared with the families of the victims.

The police have released few details on any of the cases, saying investigators have not made any clear connections among the victims.

Asked if investigators believe that a serial killer could be on the loose, a police spokeswoman, Jennifer Castro, said the police always try to determine if unsolved crimes are related.

The only common denominators found among the victims are that the deaths occurred outdoors, in the early hours and in isolated places like trails and unoccupied streets.

John McCleary is a longtime volunteer with the city’s Trail Watch program, which was started in 2006 after a string of assaults, mostly against women, on local trails. Trail Watch volunteers serve two purposes: to be the eyes for the Police Department, reporting any problems, and to create safer conditions on 300 miles of trails with such efforts as cutting down vegetation.

But Mr. McCleary, the former director of the program for the city, said he had never seen a situation with so many unsolved killings — and he has been connected with city trails since the late 1970s. He says he feels angry and frustrated that people cannot enjoy the trails as they could a decade ago.

“This is so abnormal,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like I’m in the same city.”



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