Crime & Courts

Fairbanks officer shoots and kills armed suspect, police say

A police officer shot and killed a man in Fairbanks Tuesday after the man threatened a woman with a gun, grabbed a hostage off the street and ignored commands to drop his weapon, according to a police spokesperson.

An officer fired on and killed 28-year-old James Robert Richards in the parking lot of a local business, said Fairbanks Police Department public information officer Yumi McCulloch. She said officers had been pursuing Richards after a 911 call.

Dispatchers got the call around 1:40 p.m. from a man at the Alaska Motel on South Cushman Street. A Tuesday evening release from the police department said a man had assaulted occupants of a motel room and pointed a gun at a woman.

"A struggle ensued and some shots were fired," McCulloch said, adding no one was injured by the gunfire.

Richards left the area of the motel on foot "still armed" as officers responded to the call, according to the release. Officers arrived at Cushman and 15th Avenue, started following Richards and demanded he drop his weapon, McCulloch said.

Officers Tasered the suspect but the less-than-lethal method was ineffective, McCulloch said.

Richards grabbed an elderly man as a hostage at some point during the pursuit and used him as a human shield, according to the police account of the shooting. McCulloch said she believes the hostage was an innocent bystander.


"There was somebody on the street and he grabbed them," she said.

It is unclear when the hostage escaped Richard's grasp but he was reportedly able to do so.

He was fatally shot "as a last resort," McCulloch said.

The officer who fired the shot has been placed on administrative leave. The officer's name will be released in three days per police department policy. No officers were injured in the incident.

Three assault victims from the motel were taken to the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, according to the release.

Responding officers' body cameras have been collected and put into evidence. McCulloch said the footage is not yet available, citing an ongoing investigation.

When asked if the department would make the footage available at some point, McColloch said she wasn't sure, and officials would have to examine the body camera policy.

At 5:15 p.m. police said Cushman Street between Airport Way and 15th Avenue had been reopened.

Marco Sato, owner of Paco's Tacos and Tamale Factory, located between the motel and the scene, said he decided to send his employees home for the day. An investigating officer told him they'd likely be on scene for hours.

An employee at Nims House of Thai Food, across 15th Avenue, said she heard shots and then saw a man lying dead on the ground. A short time after the shooting, a woman was yelling in the streets, said Pananya Sawan.

"Other than that we don't know what's going on. Everybody's wondering what happened," she said.


Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.