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Wounded Anchorage officer looks forward to patrol return

Lisa Demer
Retired Anchorage Police Sgt. Bill Kaas helped his girlfriend Officer Jean Mills with her release from Alaska Regional Hospital on Tuesday, June 15, 2010. Officer Mills was shot two times during a routine traffic stop on DeBarr Road in the early morning hours last Wednesday.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Retired Anchorage Police Sgt. Bill Kaas helped his girlfriend Officer Jean Mills with her release from Alaska Regional Hospital on Tuesday, June 15, 2010. Officer Mills was shot two times during a routine traffic stop on DeBarr Road in the early morning hours last Wednesday.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage Police Officer Jean Mills talks to the media shortly before being released from Alaska Regional Hospital on Tuesday, June 15, 2010. Officer Mills was shot two times during a routine traffic stop on DeBarr Road in the early morning hours last Wednesday.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Retired Anchorage Police Sgt. Bill Kaas pushes the wheelchair as his girlfriend Officer Jean Mills was released from Alaska Regional Hospital on Tuesday, June 15, 2010. Officer Mills was shot two times during a routine traffic stop on DeBarr Road in the early morning hours last Wednesday.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Retired Anchorage Police Sgt. Bill Kaas helped his girlfriend Officer Jean Mills with her release from Alaska Regional Hospital on Tuesday, June 15, 2010. Officer Mills was shot two times during a routine traffic stop on DeBarr Road in the early morning hours last Wednesday.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage Police Officer Jean Mills talks to the media shortly before being released from Alaska Regional Hospital on Tuesday, June 15, 2010. Officer Mills was shot two times during a routine traffic stop on DeBarr Road in the early morning hours last Wednesday.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage Police Officer Jean Mills is greeted by Mayor Dan Sullivan prior to being released Alaska Regional Hospital on Tuesday, June 15, 2010.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage Police Officer Jean Mills talks to the media shortly before being released from Alaska Regional Hospital on Tuesday, June 15, 2010. Officer Mills was shot two times during a routine traffic stop on DeBarr Road in the early morning hours last Wednesday.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage Police Officer Jean Mills talks to the media shortly before being released from Alaska Regional Hospital on Tuesday, June 15, 2010. Officer Mills was shot two times during a routine traffic stop on DeBarr Road in the early morning hours last Wednesday.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News

It began as a traffic shop early in the morning on June 9 by a veteran Anchorage police officer. Then the driver pulled a gun and shot officer Jean Mills twice. The suspect, fresh out of prison and wanted on new charges, fled.

The situation turned so bad so quickly, she never had a chance to draw her gun, Mills said Tuesday, telling her story publicly for the first time. She doesn't second guess herself. She thinks she did everything by the book.

"I knew something was hinky, but it was just so fast," she said.

Dozens of police officers sped to the DeBarr Road scene, but the shooter was gone. Then, just before midnight, as police were closing in on him in a Spenard neighborhood, the suspect shot himself dead.

Mills, 45, spoke to news reporters Tuesday afternoon in her hospital room, which was so packed with flowers and balloons it looked more like a florist shop. Less than a week after being shot, she was preparing for discharge from Alaska Regional Hospital. She was eager to get home and especially to see her little dog, Gizzie, a Pekinese/Shih Tzu mix.

Later that afternoon, her boyfriend wheeled her out of Regional. She says she could have walked.

She was upbeat. She joked with reporters and was good natured about the TV cameras and microphones packed into her hospital room.

"As soon as I get done with you guys, I'm out of here," Mills said with a grin.

Though her right shoulder -- her shooting arm -- was severely injured, she expects to fully recover and return to the job she loves. She's been doing it nearly a dozen years.

"MR. COOL"

The driver of the maroon Ford Taurus was a young, talkative guy, Mills said. He was alone in the car.

"We chatted for a minute. He pulled out the gun. I did what I could try to do to, you know, push the gun away and get away and unfortunately he got me."

The driver -- later identified by police as 24-year-old Kenneth Alonzo Santos Robinson -- was in a rental car heading south on Turpin Street. He turned right onto DeBarr Road but swung wide, into the far left lane, making it an illegal turn, Mills said.

She pulled him over, walked up to the driver's side of the car, and told him why.

Are you sure that was me? he asked her, seeming to make a joke of it.

"He was just Mr. Cool," she said.

She asked him for his driver's license, registration and insurance.

"He reached -- kind of patted his pockets, didn't have a wallet," she said. That's not uncommon on police stops, she said. She could see inside the car with her flashlight. He opened the glove box but the paperwork wasn't in it.

Then he turned his back to her, fumbling around inside the car. She told him to stop.

"And boom, the gun was there," she said. Maybe he pulled it from between the seats. She cursed to herself.

His first shot got her in the right shoulder, breaking the bone, disabling her arm, Mills said. She couldn't reach for her gun in its holster. She said she didn't even realize he also shot her in the hip until it was all over. That shot went through her abdomen and exited the other side.

"I'm already a little bit behind the power curve. He's already got his gun out. I don't have mine. I'm just trying to distance myself," she said.

"I just tried to do what I could to deflect the gun away, push the gun away."

Her adrenaline was going. She was hurting but didn't know how bad it was.

"I never once told myself that was going to be it," Mills said.

She called in the shooting and relayed detailed information. Police found the abandoned rental car within three hours a couple of miles away.

"Everything happened incredibly fast, as far as people coming out from the apartment building, asking if I was OK," Mills said. "Of course, my buddies were there in a heartbeat. They were on me in seconds and the ambulance was there in seconds."

She had an initial surgery to put a metal rod in her broken right arm and repair internal injuries. She was out of intensive care in two days. She doesn't think she'll need more surgeries but her right arm has a lot of healing to do. Her hip and abdomen aren't bothering her too much so far.

"TIME TO MOVE ON"

The shooting came five months after Anchorage Officer Jason Allen was shot a half dozen times while sitting in his patrol car in Fairview after responding to a domestic disturbance. That shooting remains unsolved.

Two police shootings months apart have sparked debate. Should officers work in pairs? Does the city need more police? Mills said she doesn't know if having a partner would have made any difference. But she said she prefers being solo.

"I know personally I like driving in my own car. I like having my own car. I like having my things where I like it," she said.

There are times when more police are needed on the streets, she said. But the night she was shot, 29 officers were working patrol, an above average number, according to the Anchorage Police Department.

She's torn over how the situation ended, with a young man committing suicide.

"I'm going to be honest. It's too bad that it had to come to that. But he made the choices he made all the way through this. And I can say it's a done deal now, you know. It's done and it's over with. So it's time to just move on now," Mills said.

Robinson had a long criminal history stretching back to age 7, according to court documents. When he was 18, he stole a gun and held up a coffee shack, according to court records. He went to prison, then to a halfway house, but escaped and was sent back to Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward. Just released in May, Robinson was wanted again on a new domestic violence charge and also was suspected in a June 1 robbery of a coffee stand. Police have said Robinson may have turned to gunfire out of fear of returning to prison.

"My mind says he thoroughly had this planned and he was prepared to do this if he got stopped," Mills said.

She said she's wanted to be a police officer since high school. "Protect and serve, like we say." She first took a years-long detour with the Boys and Girls Club in Anchorage.

Mills is unusually fit. She plays basketball, softball, golf and, just before being shot, was getting ready to test for a black belt in tae kwon do.

"I haven't even gotten my golf clubs out yet this summer, doggone it!"

Her longtime boyfriend is recently retired police Sgt. Bill Kaas, who put in almost 36 years with the department. He was with her Tuesday in the hospital room. He said he knew she'd want to return to patrol.

She doesn't know when; it all depends on how quickly she heals.

"I'm sure I'm going to have those moments," she said. Who doesn't, in her line of work. "But I'll get back."

Find Lisa Demer online at adn.com/contact/ldemer or call 257-4390. Reporter Blaire Maloney contributed to this story.


By LISA DEMER
ldemer@adn.com