A policewoman was shot during an early morning traffic stop in East Anchorage on Wednesday in the second attack involving gunfire on a city police officer this year.
Officer Jean Mills was halfway through the night shift when she stopped a west-bound Ford Taurus for an illegal turn at about 3:15 a.m. on DeBarr Road, police say. At some point during the stop, she was shot multiple times.
Police said Mills underwent surgery, which went well, though she faces a long recovery.
Violet Davis, who lives nearby, said her daughter had recently come home from work when her family heard the shots.
Outside they found the 45-year-old policewoman alone and bleeding in the short driveway of a two-story apartment building just west of Beaver Place. There was no sign of the Taurus and no sign of the shooter or shooters.
"My son ran out and no one (was) here but the officer on the ground," Davis said.
Mills was conscious and talking. "She said don't touch her," Davis said.
Anchorage police soon swarmed the area.
The incident came five months after Officer Jason Allen was shot half a dozen times while sitting in his patrol car in Fairview after responding to a domestic disturbance call. As of Wednesday night, no one had been arrested in either shooting and a police spokesman said it's too early to say whether the attacks are related.
As city leaders talked to reporters at police headquarters Wednesday, a few squad cars dotted the parking lot outside a local hospital where Mills is being treated.
Lt. Richard Henning, a tall, 18-year department veteran, stepped out of the emergency room doors and onto the pavement. Along with emotionally charged domestic violence calls, the unknown nature of traffic stops makes pulling someone over one of a police officer's most dangerous jobs, he said.
"We do not know what the other person is running from or could be running from," he said.
Police on Wednesday were "blanketing the town" looking for the shooter or shooters involved in the Mills incident, said Lt. Dave Parker, a department spokesman. This time, police have more witnesses and more evidence than the Allen case, he said.
Police chief Mark Mew said during an afternoon press conference that the department would be releasing few details of what happened, including what they know of the shooter. "Because if there are suspects out there I don't want to be educating them about what we know. We need to be very careful."
Another resident who lives near the scene, Kendrick McFarland, said he heard a pair of shots but at first thought they were just part of an old Denzel Washington movie he was watching in his apartment.
"It's crazy," McFarland said. "They start shooting at the guys who are supposed to be protecting us. ... It's crazy."
Mills, a 12-year APD veteran, called in her own shooting. She was able to provide detailed information to other officers, Parker said, and the car was located, abandoned, just before 6 a.m. in a parking lot in the area of Bragaw Street and Northern Lights Boulevard.
"She talked all the way to the hospital," Parker said. "She was able to communicate with the officers in the hospital, so she was doing quite well that way."
One of the shots struck Mills, who is right-handed, in the right arm, he said. Police union president Derek Hsieh said Mills would likely need more surgeries.
Hsieh was working with the SWAT team when reached Wednesday afternoon. He was about to go into a house with them, "following up leads," he said. No arrests were made at the house.
Mills is a senior patrol officer who normally works the north part of town, he said.
The shift she was working had 29 officers on patrol, Parker said. That's a higher than average number for the shift. Hsieh said many more showed up volunteering their help after they heard about what happened.
Investigators don't know if the attack is connected to the Allen shooting, Mew said.
Allen had been sitting in his patrol car Jan. 9 at about 2 a.m. on Medfra Street in Fairview when a dark-colored sedan pulled up and opened fire, police have said.
Allen survived gunshots to the arms and torso and Mew said police were still following leads in that case.
"That would be way too early ... to even make that inference," Parker said of any connection between the two incidents. "However that will be certainly something that they follow up on in terms of the investigation."
At his weekly press conference Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Dan Sullivan said, "I think I speak for the whole city of Anchorage by saying how saddened and angered we are by this event."
"It's unacceptable. This action does not represent who Anchorage is as a community," he said.
In a prepared statement handed out at the press conference, he said, "The police department has all municipal resources at its disposal to track down this depraved criminal, and I have every confidence APD will bring the suspect to swift justice."
The U.S. Marshals task force is working for APD right now, Mew said.
The high-profile police shootings promise to propel debate over city police spending and policies.
Anchorage police routinely patrol by themselves rather than in two-person cars. When asked if police should work with partners, Sullivan said in January that one incident shouldn't change policies but "it's the kind of thing that we'll talk about with the chief and his staff."
Sullivan said Wednesday that the police department is currently undergoing a deployment audit: "Can we do things better? Is our structure proper? Are we putting people in the right place at the right times?"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
By KYLE HOPKINS and MEGAN HOLLAND
Anchorage Daily News