Troopers seek images of Kotzebue shootout

Casey Grove

Alaska State Troopers on Wednesday asked members of the public for any pictures or video taken during a Sunday shootout in Kotzebue that ended with a suspect dead and a trooper seriously wounded.

While the shootout remains under investigation, troopers also released the names of the law enforcement officers involved.

It started about 9 a.m. Sunday when the suspect, later identified as 50-year-old Arvid Nelson Jr., crashed his pickup into a guardrail, troopers said. A passing motorist said Nelson brandished a gun, and someone called 911. Two troopers, Gordon Young and Christopher Bitz, and Kotzebue Police Officer Sgt. Norman Hughes headed to the area to see what was going on, troopers said.

Nelson opened fire immediately, and the officers shot back, troopers said. Bitz was seriously wounded in the gunfire and was soon flown to an Anchorage hospital, where he was listed in stable condition. Young was apparently grazed or hit by shrapnel and treated at the Kotzebue clinic, troopers said.

Over the next several hours, Nelson remained in the pickup. A team of tactically trained officers and a crisis negotiator flew to Kotzebue in the meantime. At the scene of the shootout, they fired beanbags at the pickup's windows, shattering them, and launched pepper spray at Nelson, troopers said.

They approached the pickup later and found Nelson dead about 6 p.m. He appeared to have shot himself, troopers said.

The shootout is under investigation to see if the troopers and police officer were justified in firing their weapons at Nelson. Trooper investigators will present their findings to the Department of Law's Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, following normal protocol for such cases, troopers said.

Young has been a trooper since 2007 and was assigned to the Kotzebue post in July 2010. He has more than six years' experience, troopers said.

Bitz also joined the Alaska State Troopers in 2007 and was assigned to Kotzebue in December 2010.

Hughes has 12 years with the Kotzebue Police Department, troopers said.

Anyone with photos or video of the incident is asked to call the shooting investigators at (907) 269-5611.

Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.

Anchorage Daily News