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State says police shooting of man in SUV was justified

Lisa Demer

The man shot and killed by Anchorage police in April while in an SUV in the Carr's Gambell parking lot had pointed a loaded semi-automatic 9mm pistol at one of the officers, who were legally justified in shooting him, a state prosecutor has determined.

The Anchorage Police Department on Tuesday announced prosecutor Robert Henderson's findings in the April 5 shooting of Detlef Wulf by officers Michael Farr and Christopher Alexander.

Police earlier had revealed that Wulf, 27, had pointed his pistol at an officer, but not that it was loaded. Henderson's report also divulged that Wulf was under the influence of alcohol, marijuana and methamphetamines at the time of his death.

Henderson, with the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, finished his review May 17. The office examines officer-involved shootings in Alaska and has completed three reviews so far this year, finding each shooting justified, with a fourth shooting still under review, Henderson said. Two involved fatalities.

Henderson went to the scene of the Carrs shooting and reviewed police dispatch recordings, other audio recordings and police reports and the autopsy report. He also attended the interviews of Farr and Alexander.

Here's what he found, according to his detailed, four-page letter to Anchorage police:

Police got a call from Carrs on April 5 about a man "slumped over the wheel" of a vehicle in the store parking lot. Employees knocked on the window but couldn't rouse him, and the doors were locked.

Officers Farr and Alexander responded to the call from Carrs. They parked their patrol cars in a way to block in the SUV. Police said earlier they ran the tags of the SUV but it didn't belong to Wulf so they didn't know about his criminal past. He was a convicted felon with a history of assault and burglary, as well as a number of misdemeanor offenses.

As the officers knocked hard on the windows, Wulf began to slowly move and officers saw a black semi-automatic pistol between his legs.

"Gun!" Alexander shouted. Both officers began moving away. Wulf reached for the pistol, raised it to his chest height and pointed it toward the driver's side window, where Farr was standing. Farr moved back. Alexander, on the passenger side, walked back toward Farr's right side.

Both officers drew their pistols and pointed them at Wulf. Witnesses at the scene said both officers ordered Wulf to put his hands up.

Instead, Henderson wrote, Wulf opened the driver's side door, brought the pistol across his body and pointed it at Farr.

Farr fired multiple shots. He told investigators he thought Wulf was going to kill him. Alexendar couldn't see Wulf's hands, but when he heard the shots, he thought Wulf was shooting at Farr and fired one round, Henderson wrote.

Five shots hit Wulf, who still was gripping his pistol.

Both officers made reasonable decisions and were justified in using deadly force, Henderson concluded. No criminal charges will be brought against the officers for the death, he wrote.

Authorities don't have a ready means to track officer-involved shootings in Alaska over the years, Henderson said in a phone interview. A new Department of Law case management system funded this year by the Legislature will allow that to happen, he said.

Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew has said he's been concerned about the number of officer-involved shootings. No internal procedures have changed as a result of recent shootings but police are looking at ways to improve, spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said in an email.

 

Reach Lisa Demer at ldemer@adn.com or 257-4390.

 

 


By LISA DEMER
ldemer@adn.com