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Suspect shot by Anchorage police officers facing new charges

Ben Anderson
Loren Holmes photo

Anchorage police on Tuesday announced new charges against a man they say pulled a gun on two officers during a Sunday evening traffic stop, prompting them to discharge their weapons. Some shots hit the suspect in his left arm, making it the fifth officer-involved shooting this year in Anchorage, according to police Chief Mark Mew.

Police identified the man as 22-year-old Kyle Garett Swann, who at the time of the traffic stop already had a felony arrest warrant out for failing to appear in court on drug charges. He was still in the hospital on Tuesday afternoon, but police said that Swann had been arrested on the outstanding warrant and that he would also be charged with four counts of felony assault -- one count for each police officer and one count for each of the other two occupants of the vehicle Swann was traveling in.

Swann’s bail has been set at $40,000, cash-only. Neither of the other occupants of the vehicle have been charged. Police still have not released the name of the officers involved in the shooting, citing department policy that imposes a 72-hour waiting period after the incident.

The shooting took place shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday in Anchorage’s Fairview neighborhood. A small SUV driven by 22-year-old Garret Graham, with 19-year-old Christina Morton and Swan as passengers, was pulled over for driving “carelessly,” according to police.

Lt. Anthony Henry said at a press conference Tuesday that it wasn’t completely clear what prompted the traffic stop, though he said the vehicle may have been accelerating too quickly on the snow-and-ice-covered roads, and may have also come close to hitting a dumpster.

Swann was sitting alone in the center of the back seat, and the officer who made the stop ran the names of the three through the computer and got a hit back on Swan. He called for backup and approached the vehicle after another officer arrived on scene.

Police chief Mark Mew said that two offers approached the SUV from the left side of the vehicle.

“The two officers approached and attempted to make the arrest, when Mr. Swann produced a .38 caliber revolver and pointed it at the two officers who immediately returned fire and retreated,” Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew said.

Henry said that six shots were fired by the officers. One struck Swann near his left elbow. Swann reportedly did not fire any shots. Henry added that it wasn’t clear yet if the gun belonged to Swann.

The fifth officer-involved shooting of 2012 in Anchorage follows a June shooting which in which 26-year-old Shane Tasi was killed in Mountain View after police said he was brandishing a large broomstick in a threatening manner. Less than a month later, 59-year-old Harry Smith was also killed when police said he pointed a realistic-looking BB gun at them. In September, 37-year-old Jason Barnum was shot in the right shoulder during a standoff near Merrill Field in downtown Anchorage, in which a police officer was also injured. Another nonfatal incident occurred in March, when two officers were involved in a shooting after a suspect began ramming civilian and police vehicles during an attempted traffic stop.

 “I think this is a fairly straightforward one,” Mew said of Sunday's incident. “The officers are making an arrest, there’s a felony warrant, the suspect knows there’s a warrant. He’s told he’s under arrest, he pulls out a gun and points it at the officers -- there’s a predictable response.”

Mew said that most years, there are typically only “a couple” of officer-involved shootings, and it’s difficult any time such a shooting occurs.

“It’s regrettable for sure," Mew said. "Any time we have to resort to deadly force is a regrettable situation.”

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com