Officials investigating after video shows man lying in snow outside Anchorage’s sleep-off center

Officials in Anchorage are looking into why a security guard pushed a seemingly inebriated elder out of a sobering center in a wheelchair and left him outside in the snow last week.

In a video taken Wednesday, Dec. 28, and posted to the neighborhood social media platform Nextdoor soon afterward, an elderly man lies in the snow not far from the Anchorage Correctional Complex near downtown. According to Ray McWain, who recorded the video, he watched a member of the Anchorage Safety Patrol in a neon vest pushing a wheelchair away from the Anchorage Safety Center — known colloquially as the sleep-off center.

“He was kinda dumping him off of the wheelchair and then walked back to his van,” McWain said. “And then (he) left.”

Curious, McWain walked over and spotted the older man lying in the snow, he said. In the video, which was deleted by Nextdoor, McWain asks the man what happened and asks for his name, but the responses are difficult to parse.

“He was intoxicated still, he was drunk,” McWain said.

He told the man he’d come back with a blanket. Temperatures that day in Anchorage were in the 20s.

McWain said that at 7:15 p.m. that day, according to his phone records, he called 311, the city’s non-emergency help line. But by the time he returned, the man was gone. McWain never learned his name or what became of him.


Not long after McWain posted the short video to Nextdoor, it came to the attention of city officials, including the Anchorage Health Department, which oversees the contract for the Anchorage Safety Center.

“The health department is ensuring corrective action is taken by the contractor,” Health Department spokesman Tyler Sachtleben said Wednesday.

The Anchorage Safety Center is staffed by employees of private security company Securitas, which also operates the Anchorage Safety Patrol vans that pick up intoxicated and inebriated individuals from around town for transport to the supervised facility until they are sober enough to leave.

After seeing the video, Anchorage Health Department management told Securitas to begin a human resources investigation, according to Sachtleben.

“After receiving the results of the contractor’s investigation ... we can unfortunately confirm that the social media posting was largely accurate. We are deeply concerned about the state in which this individual was released and are actively investigating the decision-making that led to this incident,” Sachtleben said, adding that the health department’s own investigation is ongoing.

As of Thursday afternoon, Securitas had not responded to specific questions about the incident.

“Securitas takes its role in public service seriously and places safety as the highest priority in providing security services. We are aware of the referenced incident, and the matter is currently under investigation,” communications manager Alethia Stone wrote in an email Thursday afternoon.

Citing state and municipal rules protecting medical privacy and personnel matters, Sachtleben said the Anchorage Health Department could not provide the name of the Securitas staffer involved, nor any information about the man left outside in the snow.

“Securitas does not track clients after their release. We have made several attempts to contact the individual via phone and at the residence on file, but the gentleman’s whereabouts are not known at this time. He is not a client within the Municipality’s shelter system,” Sachtleben said.

Anchorage’s safety patrol system was designed to transport severely inebriated individuals off the street to the sleep-off center, where they remain under monitoring until they’re sober enough to no longer pose a threat to themselves or others. The transport vans and facility were intended as ways to more effectively meet community needs without tying up police resources or paramedics bringing people into jails or hospitals for excessive drinking.

“No one should be treated in the manner, and we thank the concerned citizens who brought this incident to our attention,” Sachtleben said.

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Zachariah Hughes

Zachariah Hughes covers Anchorage government, the military, dog mushing, subsistence issues and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. He also helps produce the ADN's weekly politics podcast. Prior to joining the ADN, he worked in Alaska’s public radio network, and got his start in journalism at KNOM in Nome.