Man fatally wounded in crowded lot

AFTERNOON: Victim was in back seat of SUV parked in front of Sports Authority.

June 4, 2009 

A man was gunned down in a brazen, broad-daylight assault in one of Anchorage's largest shopping areas Thursday. The victim later died from his wounds at a hospital, according to Anchorage police.

The shooting occurred in the crowded parking lot in front of the Sports Authority on Old Seward Highway near Dimond Boulevard about 1:10 p.m. Bullets struck 23-year-old Joe Alfred Young Jr., who was in the back of an SUV, twice -- once in his neck and once in the chest, police said. Witnesses said he appeared conscious in the moments after the shooting before he was sped away in an ambulance.

Police had not taken any suspects into custody Thursday evening, and the motive for the shooting remained unknown.

"From every indication, this is not a random shooting," police Lt. Dave Parker said. "There was apparently some kind of relationship between the suspect and the victim, but we don't know yet."

The shooting spawned a sweeping response from police, who swarmed the parking lot and hunted across town for the suspect's vehicle, described as a greenish sedan. They had not found it Thursday evening.

Young was in the back seat of a gray Ford Explorer parked directly in front of Sports Authority, perhaps 50 yards away from the store entrance, when he was attacked, though it remained unclear why he was there. Apparently no one else was in the vehicle.

The bullets shattered both rear windows of the Explorer, littering the pavement with broken glass. After the shooting, four small shell casings, possibly from a 9 mm, were strewn on the ground under vehicles in the next parking aisle over.

A single black and blue sneaker rested on the pavement near ripped, bloody clothing. A streak of blood was visible on the frame of an open door.

One witness said she saw two men approach the Explorer. One had a rifle and was shooting into the driver's side, the other was at the passenger side breaking a window. The woman said she didn't hear any yelling, but that she had her windows up and was busy driving her daughter away from the commotion.

The woman said she told her daughter to get down and sped away.

Another witness was across the lot eating lunch at Taco Bell when she heard the shots ring out. She rushed to the area to see if she could help, she said. At that time, the victim appeared conscious, she said.

Young was loaded into an ambulance and taken to a hospital in critical condition, but he died a short time later, according to police.

According to court records, Young has previously been arrested on charges of drug possession, theft, robbery and assault.

His sister, Kristy Young, 25, said in a telephone interview that he went through a rough patch growing up when he fell in with the wrong crowd. After an arrest about a year ago, he decided to clean up his act, she said. Young was currently an honor student at Charter College, she said.

"This is a shock. Because, I mean like a couple years ago, I would have" thought something like this could happen, she said. "But like I said, he did (a turnaround) last year, and going to school and trying to get things together for his self, and straightening his life up."

Police were continuing their investigation. They were asking anyone with information about the shooting, or perhaps who may have gotten a bullet lodged in their vehicle, to call them.


Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call 257-4589.