Alaska News

Hotel shooting suspect admits to crime spree

The man accused of shooting a police officer Thursday at a hotel near Merrill Field later admitted to stealing cars and burglarizing homes to feed a heroin addiction, charges say.

It was those Hillside break-ins police were investigating when Jason W. Barnum opened fire from a bathroom at the Merrill Field Inn, police say. His weapon: A handgun stolen in the recent burglaries and vehicle thefts, according the charges. One officer was lightly injured in the gunfire and is expected to return to work Tuesday.

Two officers shot back, striking Barnum in the right arm, said Lt. Anthony Henry.

Described by police as a "serial burglar," Barnum spent most of the past decade in prison on burglary and forgery convictions. The 37-year-old is now charged with attempted murder in the two-hour standoff that emptied the hotel, froze traffic on Fifth Avenue and drew nearly every on-duty police officer in the city.

Investigators arrested two others who were in the hotel room with Barnum -- Stephanie Callis and Sam Williams Jr. -- on warrants. District Court Judge Alex Swiderski set Barnum's bail for the more serious charge at $500,000 at the Anchorage jail Friday afternoon.

Standing at the court lectern, Barnum shifted his weight from one foot to the other, glancing occasionally -- the white of one eye black with tattoo ink -- at reporters and bail bondsmen sitting in the gallery.

More charges may follow. Police say they're still piecing together what happened at the hotel and investigating Barnum's role in the string of Anchorage break-ins. Unlike many burglars, police believe Barnum wasn't waiting for people to leave their homes. He was sneaking in while the owners were still inside, Henry said.


Here's the story so far, according to prosecutors and police:


Investigating the Hillside burglaries and reports of someone rifling through vehicles, police received a report of an abandoned Toyota pickup in a parking lot near Merrill Field Inn.

Surveillance footage obtained from the hotel showed a man hauling a tote from the stolen truck into room 209. The man later threw the tote in a trash bin, the charges say.

Three police officers went to the room to investigate. What happened next is confusing, the charges say. Three people were inside, and all three knew police were at the door. Barnum hid in the bathroom with Callis, prosecutors say.

The third person, Williams, told police that Callis was sick. The woman began making "retching sounds" from behind the closed door.

Barnum later told police he urged Callis to fake being sick in hopes of discouraging police from coming in the bathroom.

Suspicious that Callis was hiding something or someone, police demanded she come out anyway. Williams was already in handcuffs when the door opened.

As Callis walked out, Barnum opened fire, the charges say.

The police officers may not have known Barnum was there until the gunfire began. He never said why he started shooting, Henry said.

Two officers were in the hotel room at the time, Henry said. Another officer and a police supervisor waited just outside the door.

A bullet grazed the back of one of the officers, police say.

"It kind of unzipped him, and the doctors stitched him up," said Police Chief Mark Mew.

The wounded officer has not been publicly identified. He was treated and released from a local hospital and plans to return to work next week, Mew said.

The injured officer and another officer shot back, striking Barnum. "I believe it fractured his upper arm," Henry said.

Callis and Williams were taken into police custody while Barnum remained in the room until shortly after 1 p.m., when he surrendered, slumped and bleeding.

Inside the hotel room police found a backpack containing jewelry, jewelry boxes, mementos and other items.



Since 2001, Barnum has spent roughly 8 1/2 years in prison. He was most recently released Dec. 30, 2011, after serving more than a year on a parole violation, according to the Department of Corrections. His distinctive tattoos once aided police investigators when a bank teller took note of the markings on his head and neck as Barnum tried to cash a stolen check.

Among Barnum's convictions, according to court records:

• 1993 -- first-degree burglary

• 1994 -- burglary, larceny

• 1999 -- resisting arrest, drunken driving

• 2000 -- Second degree forgery, second-degree theft.

• 2004 -- first-degree burglary, fourth-degree assault and resisting arrest


In 2000, Barnum cashed two checks stolen from an Anchorage home for $890, the charges say. He was connected to another burglary that year when guns, jewelry, checks and other items were stolen from two other homes, court records show.

In one 2004 case, Barnum was spotted walking out from behind a garage wearing a white hard hat. When the homeowner confronted him, Barnum mumbled that he was looking for a light pole, according to a police complaint. The homeowner went inside to find his house ransacked.

A series of burglaries Wednesday night and Thursday morning led police to Barnum's hotel, but he may be connected to other break-ins that investigators don't know about, Henry said. The thefts have been reported in the upper Hillside and Rabbit Creek area, he said, with about seven known burglaries so far.

"When people do burglaries, they generally do businesses at night because no one is there. They generally do residences during the day because no one's there," Henry said. "When you go into people's homes at night, that's very risky behavior."

Police said they don't know where Barnum had been living since leaving prison. He and his companions had rented the hotel room for at least one night and reserved it for one more when they were discovered by police.

Daily News reporter Casey Grove contributed to this story. Twitter updates: Call Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334 or email him at

Photos: Merrill Field Inn shooting


Anchorage Daily News

Kyle Hopkins

Kyle Hopkins is special projects editor of the Anchorage Daily News. He was the lead reporter on the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Lawless" project and is part of an ongoing collaboration between the ADN and ProPublica's Local Reporting Network. He joined the ADN in 2004 and was also an editor and investigative reporter at KTUU-TV. Email