A longtime Anchorage downtown sidewalk hot-dog vendor killed himself in his home on Sunday, police said, just before he was to be tried on charges that he sexually assaulted a female employee.
The death of M.A.'s Gourmet Dogs proprietor Michael Roy Anderson, 55, was confirmed Monday by police spokeswoman Anita Shell.
"Anderson was found by neighbors deceased inside his home at the 500 block of E. 24th (Avenue) on Sunday," Shell wrote in an email. "The death was ruled a suicide."
Anderson left a note, Shell said, but police will not be releasing its contents.
Mark Anderson, Michael Anderson's brother, said by phone from Seattle on Monday that the family had no immediate comment on Michael's death.
"We're all shocked and grieving," Mark Anderson said.
Michael Anderson was charged early this year with sexually assaulting, coercing and giving alcohol to an 18-year-old employee in September 2015. The employee said Anderson tried to feed her a marijuana-laced brownie as well as vodka and cranberry juice, then inappropriately touched her at a coffee shop he also owned inside the Old Federal Building near his usual pushcart location, according to an initial charging document in the case.
Court records showed the case against Anderson was set to go to trial beginning Monday.
Anderson operated a pushcart from spring to fall at Fourth Avenue and F Street for more than 20 years and also had a stand at the Alaska State Fair. Last summer, he operated his cart in Town Square Park. He earned a reputation for his sometimes terse interactions with customers, including refusal to serve anyone talking on a cellphone, as well as long lines of customers.
In a 2014 profile video, Anderson told Alaska Public Media's Indie Alaska that running the cart — long hours purchasing and preparing ingredients, as well as his time on the street — has "never been easy."
"People would always say, 'Oh, you've got an easy job — you're making money, you're talking to women, the sun is shining,'" Anderson said. "And I vented my frustration to my mother; I said, 'Mom, these people have no idea how much work I do.' She said, 'Michael, you make it look easy.'"
Anderson had a generous side, donating a day of his profits in 2011 to help in the search for Monty Dickson, a teacher lost in Japan's Fukushima earthquake and tsunami and later found dead.
According to a 2014 photo essay on Anderson by Anchorage-based photographer Jovell Rennie, he also offered frugal diners a free hot dog if they could toss a balled-up hot-dog wrapper into the trash can he used as a "suggestion box" from 30 feet away.