Officer and suspect wounded in hotel gunfire and standoff

Anchorage Daily NewsSeptember 13, 2012 

Friday morning update:

Anchorage police arrested Jason Barnum, 37, early this morning upon his release from a hospital and charged him with three counts of first-degree attempted murder in the Thursday officer shooting, according to police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker.

"We had somebody standing by at the hospital to execute the arrest warrant," Parker said.

Barnum was taken into custody just after 1 a.m., Parker said. He is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon.

Court records show Barnum had an outstanding warrant at the time of the shooting for misdemeanor charges of drug possession and making a false report. He pleaded no contest to a felony burglary charge in 2005 and felony forgery and theft in 2000.

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Thursday evening story:

Gunfire erupted inside a North Anchorage hotel room Thursday morning when a man hiding in a bathroom shot at police officers investigating a string of burglaries, a police spokesman said.

Police say a bullet grazed the back or shoulder of one officer. He and at least one other officer returned fire, striking the suspect in the arms. Both the wounded officer and suspect are expected to recover, police said. Their names have not been released.

The exchange of gunfire began a two-hour standoff that caused police to evacuate the Merrill Field Inn, at Fifth Avenue and Sitka Street, and close both streets to traffic until about 1:30 p.m.

Based on early reports, Police Chief Mark Mew said three officers had been investigating a series of Thursday morning burglaries and found a vehicle connected to the thefts parked in the area of the hotel. They talked to a manager at the hotel about getting security camera footage. At about 11:30 a.m., the officers walked upstairs to a room on the second floor to talk to the people staying there, Mew said.

Inside the room, the officers noticed what looked like the items stolen in the burglaries, the police chief said.

As they spoke to a man and woman in the hotel room, another man fired on the uniformed officers from the bathroom, said police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker. Police radios squawked with reports of an "officer down."

The man and woman escaped and were questioned by police, Parker said. The suspected shooter remained in the room.

Dozens of marked and unmarked police vehicles rushed to the area, sirens wailing. SWAT officers with body armor, helmets and shotguns swarmed the inn.

'THE BEAR'

Harold Trufant, a housekeeper at the hotel, had just started his shift and was checking empty rooms when the trouble began.

"The next thing I know, I heard gunshots. Three or four gunfires," said Trufant, who ducked into a room to hide with two other employees.

Next door, at Six States Distributors, Curtis Justen was working on a truck's rear differential when he heard the sirens. He went outside and saw the wounded officer.

"We ran out and the cops were just piling up," Justen said. "I saw a guy come out without his shirt, and there was a gash on his shoulder."

Police officers helped their bloodied comrade into an ambulance, which sped off, Justen said.

At first, it was unclear if the suspected shooter was wounded too. Police were unable to immediately talk to him or reach him on a phone.

"Our guys think we hit him," Mew said as the siege continued. "We can hear some moaning in there."

SWAT officers soon began evacuating hotel staff and guests. Trufant said an officer knocked on the door of the room after he'd been hiding there about two hours and asked him and the two others to come out. Police placed about 10 people into a large, black police vehicle, nicknamed "The Bear," that backed out of an alley and delivered them to a safer area, Parker said.

Shortly after 1 p.m., a team of SWAT officers approached the suspect's second floor room. Standing on a balcony leading to the hotel room's entrance, the officers yelled to the man.

He stumbled to the door, bleeding from his arms, and slumped against the door frame.

'IT APPEARS WE SHOT HIM TWICE'

Police handcuffed the man's hands behind his back and threw a "flash-bang" grenade -- designed to overwhelm potential attackers with a burst of light and a loud boom -- in the hotel room. Police made sure no one else was hiding in the room and walked the suspected shooter downstairs, placing him face-down on a gurney. Paramedics drove him to an Anchorage hospital.

"It looks to me like he was shot in each arm, or maybe a hand and an arm, but I don't know for sure at this point," Chief Mew said later. "It appears that we shot him twice."

Parker said he didn't yet know what the man would be charged with. Possibly attempted murder, Mew said.

"He's in custody, the investigation is continuing, and it may take some time to come up with the charges," Parker said.

The suspect's name would not be released until he is charged, Parker said. He was unconscious and in surgery as of about 6 p.m., the police spokesman said.

Parker said the names of the officers who fired guns in the incident, including the officer who was shot, would be released in three days, according to department policy. Meantime, the gunfight remains under investigation.

The shot officer was released from a hospital within about two hours of the shooting. Both Parker and Mew talked to him at the Anchorage Police Department on Thursday afternoon and said he appeared to be doing well.

"Obviously, he's really happy to be up and walking around and alive," Mew said. "I don't think he's lost the adrenaline rush, but he's back home with his family now."

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589 or follow him at twitter.com/kcgrove. Daily News reporters Kyle Hopkins and Michelle Theriault-Boots contributed to this story.

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