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Trooper shoots, kills Sutton man in standoff over restraining order

Casey Grove

An Alaska State Trooper shot and killed a Sutton man who fired a gun at law enforcement officers Thursday after refusing to abide by a court order that said he had to leave his home, according to troopers.

Troopers served the domestic-violence protective order to Theodule LeJeune Jr., 58, through a window at his Eska Creek Street house about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, according to a charging document. LeJeune said he would not leave and "retreated further inside the residence," a written statement from troopers says.

The house sits on the opposite side of the Glenn Highway from the nearby Matanuska River in Sutton, north of Palmer.

In an application for the protective order, filed in Palmer court earlier that day, a woman living in the house with her children said she was afraid of LeJeune and that his constant threats had escalated since January. His more-recent menacing turned more physical when he pushed her into a freezer, she wrote.

"He has many guns and has threatened me with them and has threatened to shoot any police officers that come -- we are at this point terrified of him," she wrote. "Mr. LeJeune has severe paranoia about many things."

The woman described LeJeune, known as "Junior," as 5-foot-7 and 275 pounds, with a beard, glasses and tattoos on his shoulders. She also said he was connected by tubes to an oxygen tank, which he'd used in the past to block their front door.

According to Trooper Charles Withers' affidavit, filed in support of an arrest warrant for LeJeune, this is what happened at the house Wednesday, when Withers, Sgt. Paul Wegrzyn and Trooper Joseph Hess first tried to convince LeJeune to leave:

They knocked on the front door, but there was no answer. Withers saw LeJeune through a window. He was sitting on a bed inside a bedroom near the front door. If the trooper wanted to talk to him, LeJeune said, it would have to be through the window.

Withers told LeJeune about the protective order and pulled back the blinds to get a better look at the man. Withers then gave LeJeune a copy of the order.

"As I was reading the protective order Theodule stood up and began backing up towards a closet in the bedroom," Withers wrote. "I was unable to see what was in the closet so I asked Theodule not to go towards it. During this time Theodule was being verbally hostile and uncooperative."

Withers told LeJeune that he would be arrested if he did not leave the home. LeJeune said the house belonged to him. (Matanuska-Susitna Borough property records show LeJeune and the woman owned the home together. In her protective order application, she had asked that LeJeune be ordered to continue paying his half of the mortgage).

LeJeune got into the closet and partially closed the doors, hiding, Withers wrote.

Wegrzyn, the sergeant, went to his vehicle to get a pepper spray "expulsion device." He and Trooper Hess went inside the house, but LeJeune had locked the bedroom door. They came back outside to the window, where Wegrzyn told LeJeune that if he did not come out, they'd be forced to use the pepper spray. Shortly after that, Wegrzyn dropped the device through the window and gas began filling the room.

"At this time I heard the closet doors violently swing open, so I looked inside the bedroom to see if Theodule was coming out. I observed Theodule, still in the closet, raise a shotgun and point it at Sgt. Wegrzyn and I," Withers wrote.

The troopers took cover. Other troopers arrived and surrounded the house. They asked LeJeune to put down the gun. LeJuene's son and trooper negotiators tried to talk him into giving up, but they were unsuccessful.

The troopers asked a judge in Palmer how they should proceed, according to their agency's written statement.

"A determination was made that it was not immediately required that those aspects of the order be enforced if it could not be accomplished free of conflict," the troopers statement says. "Troopers departed the residence and throughout the night and the next day other means were utilized in an attempt to get LeJeune to surrender peacefully."

LeJeune still refused to leave, the statement said.

About 6 p.m. Thursday, troopers returned with an arrest warrant charging LeJuene with two counts of assault, violation of a protective order and disorderly conduct. They also had a search warrant for the house. Specialized officers on the Southcentral Special Emergency Reaction Team drove to the home and called LeJeune on a phone, troopers said. He hung up.

The SERT officers "attempted to negotiate with LeJeune and attempted multiple times to disarm LeJeune with less-lethal tools," the troopers statement says. "After many tactical measures were taken, LeJeune exited the residence with a firearm."

Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said Friday she did not know what type of gun LeJeune had Thursday.

"With the use of a Tactical Response Vehicle (officers) attempted to disarm LeJeune with additional less lethal tools," the troopers statement says. "LeJeune fired upon troopers who had taken up tactical positions outside of the TRV."

A trooper shot LeJeune, who soon died outside the house, the statement says.

The trooper has been placed on administrative leave for three days, as is the agency's policy in such shootings, troopers said. His or her name will be released in three days, Peters said.

Peters said there were no other people seen in the house while troopers were there Wednesday and Thursday. She refused to say how long the negotiations with LeJeune lasted before he walked out with the gun.

Peters said the troopers launched a "wide variety of chemical and non-chemical irritant" into the house in their attempts to get LeJeune out. They also used "specialty impact munitions" -- which, in general, includes beanbags and foam projectiles -- but Peters would not say specifically what the troopers used and at what point in the standoff the projectiles were used.

 

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

 

 


By CASEY GROVE
casey.grove@adn.com