Two dead in shooting near downtown; police searching for suspect

Tegan Hanlon,Devin Kelly
The Anchorage Police SWAT members search for a shooting suspect on Monday, March 10, 2014.
Bill Roth
Anchorage Police responded to the scene of shooting just east of 5th Avenue and Karluk Street on Monday, March 10, 2014. Police located three shooting victims, inhabitants of a tent, one of which was declared dead at the scene.
Bill Roth
Anchorage police are responding to a shooting incident near 5th Avenue and Karluk Street Monday afternoon, March 10, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Anchorage Fire Department transports one of three shooting victims to the hospital on Monday, March 10, 2014.
Bill Roth

Two people were killed and a third was wounded in a shooting near Karluk Street and Fifth Avenue late Monday afternoon, according to Anchorage Police. A male suspect escaped and was last seen walking toward Sixth Avenue and Karluk Street, police said.

The shooting took place in a tent in a small homeless encampment near the Lucky Wishbone restaurant. The tent was pitched in a brushy area at the top edge of the bluff above the Ship Creek industrial area near an auxiliary parking lot. The lot, just east of Karluk Street on the north side of Fifth, is used by customers of the diner and the nearby Sugar Shack espresso stand.

The victims had not been identified Monday evening.

The body of the first victim remained in the tent hours after the 6 p.m. shooting. Police said they wouldn't remove the body until they closed out the crime scene.

Another person in the tent suffered serious injuries and died later Monday evening after being taken to a hospital. The third victim was hospitalized with less serious injuries, Castro said.

Police said they were searching for a man of normal build and unknown age and race wearing a black jacket with vertical stripes on the back, probably red. Police initially said he was 5-foot-8, but the sole survivor told police the shooter was taller than 6 feet and had black or brown shoulder-length hair.

SWAT teams in battle gear and with assault rifles were joined by detectives, regular uniformed officers and K-9 units searching on foot for the suspect in the vicinity of the shooting. They fanned out to the south in Fairview, knocking on doors and looking in hiding places. By 8:30 p.m., the force had dwindled to a few officers.

Before the shooting started, Lisa and Peter Raypold, in their early 40s, were parked near the Lucky Wishbone waiting for two orders of fried chicken that they placed at the drive-up window. They parked facing the bluff when they were startled by a series of shots. Lisa Raypold described them as "pops" and said she heard 10 to 12 of them.

Moments later, they saw a man climb over a snow berm, walk "nonchalantly" across Karluk Street and disappear toward the south. Their description differed slightly from the official one: They said he was wearing a black hooded jacket decorated with a red stripe on at least one sleeve. They didn't see a weapon on him, they said.

The couple drove toward the tent. The tent entrance was flapping in the breeze and they were able to see a sliver of what was inside, but didn't see blood or any victims. The couple drove back to the restaurant to pick up their food just as police were arriving. They were interviewed by police at the scene.

The area around the tent was surrounded with yellow crime-scene tape, but traffic moved freely on busy Fifth Avenue.

Kurt Osterhaus, 43, who himself had been homeless for a dozen years and has spent the last two at nearby Karluk Manor, said he found it "kind of amazing" that tents were in that area.

"It's wide out in the open," he said. Most homeless camps are sheltered closer to Bean's Cafe, he said, below the edge of the bluff.

Heidi Heinrich, the general manager at Lucky Wishbone, said she called the police on the tents a week ago when she returned to work after an extended absence. The police came in the afternoon and the occupants packed up and left. The same tents, or ones just like them, were soon back and occupied, she said.

It's not an unusual sight in the neighborhood, though it's unwelcome, uncomfortable and occasionally dangerous, she said. A 16-year-old girl working at the Wishbone in her first job found a man passed out in the backseat of her car as she left work one evening, Heinrich said.

"There are sexual acts that go on behind our building in our woods," Heinrich added. "Things happen in our parking lot that you don't want people to see and you don't want people to know about."

Heinrich said she's become active in the Fairview Community Council and Fairview Business Association and plans to go to Juneau next week to urge legislators to help out. Among the things they could do, she said, is restore the recent cuts they made to social service programs.

"We already have a shortage of beds and now we're going to shut down more," she said. "Police are trying their best, but we need a lot more help than we're getting."

Though the Lucky Wishbone remains an iconic Anchorage eatery, Heinrich said she's concerned that the neighborhood could start frightening away families.

Anchorage Daily News