Anchorage police officer shot multiple times and survives; suspect killed

An Anchorage police officer was shot multiple times downtown early Saturday and a suspect was shot and killed, police said.

The police officer, who has not been identified, was in surgery late Saturday afternoon, an Anchorage Police Department spokesperson said, adding the officer was expected to survive.

The person who was shot and killed has not been identified.

APD Chief Chris Tolley described the shooting, in the area of Fifth Avenue and Cordova Street, as "a clear and intentional ambush" as the officer responded to a report of a theft.

The shooting was recorded on video, Tolley said: "It's horrific. It is really sad."

The state Office of Special Prosecutions is investigating the shooting to determine if officers' use of force was justified. APD is consulting with prosecutors about whether to release the vehicle's dashcam video of the incident, said spokesperson Jennifer Castro.

In a written statement, APD said the officer was responding to "a report of a theft suspect who was on foot" near Fifth Avenue and Cordova Street.


"As the officer was initiating a stop, a male brandishing a gun approached the patrol car and started firing at the officer," the police statement said.

"The officer was shot multiple times and also returned fire. Another APD officer arrived as shots were being fired and that officer also shot at the suspect," the statement continued. "Additional officers responded and rendered aid to the injured officer and the suspect. The suspect was declared deceased at the scene."

The shootings were first reported at 4:36 a.m., police said.

Tolley told reporters officers arrived almost immediately.

"This officer was attempting to identify an individual potentially involved in a theft," he said. "And almost immediately, the person this officer came in contact with ambushed the officer. Totally surprised the officer…This officer took quick action and almost immediately, other officers arrived on the scene. And even though the officer was shot multiple times, officers returned fire and subdued the suspect. Once they got the suspect under control, our officers tried to save this individual's life. They were unsuccessful and the individual died there at the scene."

The police chief said investigators were trying to piece together information about the suspect. Police also were interviewing possible witnesses, he said.

Fifth Avenue, a main downtown east-west thoroughfare, was closed between Denali and Barrow streets most of the morning, with two blocks sealed off by crime-scene tape. Detectives were seen placing yellow evidence markers on the southwest corner of Fifth and Cordova around 11 a.m.; other officers stood at the edge of the crime scene.

Fifth Avenue reopened around 2 p.m.

Last month, a Fairbanks police officer, Sgt. Allen Brandt, was shot as he drove on a street there. He died of complications during surgery several days later. A man accused in the shooting has been charged with murder.

"We're seeing this across our state. We're seeing this across our nation and around the world," Tolley said. People choosing a criminal lifestyle and perpetrating violence against law enforcement is "unfortunate," he said.

Tolley emphasized the continuing efforts to grow the city's police force. The department has 387 sworn officers, and 27 of those officers are going through the department's academy, Castro said.

"It is so critical that we get to the staffing levels to make the streets as safe as possible, because ultimately that is the goal," Chief Tolley said.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who attended Saturday morning's news conference, has set a goal to reach a total of 400 officers during his administration.

Sgt. Gerard Asselin, president of the Anchorage Police Department Employees Association  said APD is emerging from a difficult time. The department has not had the resources to thoroughly investigate crimes like theft, he said.

"I wouldn't say the city is unsafe," Asselin said. "But we're appreciative of the efforts to grow the department and make the city that much safer."

[Read an updated story here]