A traffic stop in Seward early Sunday ended with the shooting death of a Chugiak man in a Safeway parking lot. A passenger in the vehicle said Micah McComas was handcuffed before he was shot and that things unraveled fast.
McComas, 41, later died of his injuries, troopers said Monday. An officer, who hasn't yet been named by authorities, was injured.
Alaska State Troopers are leading the investigation. Troopers and Seward police are providing little information about what happened until the facts are established. The shooting happened around 1:47 a.m. Sunday.
Amy Campbell, a friend of McComas', said the two of them traveled last Saturday night from Anchorage to Seward in her Kia. Early Sunday morning they had just arrived. She was showing him the town, where she is from, she said.
McComas was driving and was pulled over by city police for speeding, Campbell said. They pulled into the Safeway parking lot. He didn't have a driver's license and was taken out of the vehicle. She saw him in handcuffs at the back of her car, she said.
Only one police officer was present until shots were fired, she said. He asked her questions and also sought permission to search her car. She said she told him he could do so and got out.
"And the cop car started to move. And he's like 'hey, hey, hey, hey,' " Campbell said.
The officer ran to his rolling cruiser, she said.
"A minute to a minute and a half later I hear 'boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,' I hear five shots, all in a row," Campbell said. She got on the ground in front of her car.
The police cruiser was rolling slowly and brushed her vehicle, she said.
She got up and remembers seeing McComas lying on the ground, no longer in handcuffs, and the officer lying beside him. The driver side of the cruiser was open, she said. She was ordered back to the ground. An ambulance came for McComas, who was still alive.
The chain of events doesn't make sense, she said.
"It's all confusing," she said. She doesn't know why the police cruiser started moving.
McComas was awaiting trial on charges of being a felon in possession of a gun and a misdemeanor drug offense, according to court records. Campbell said as far as she knew, he didn't have a gun when they went to Seward. She figures he was in the back of the cruiser but she didn't see him go in or out of it.
Authorities haven't said who shot McComas, where he was at the time, how the officer was injured or why a traffic stop turned deadly.
"We have to do this investigation and get that done and find out the facts," Seward Police Chief Tom Clemons said. Troopers and police worked together to provide the brief statement released on Monday, he said.
McComas' family has retained an attorney, said his sister, Krista Smith, who lives in South Carolina.
Her brother has struggled over the years but was happy and doing better, said Smith, his only sibling.
"Most of it was just stupid things," Smith said. "He wasn't a rule follower." He couldn't seem to catch a break, she said.
When troopers notified his parents that their son was dead, they said he had been shot but didn't mention any law enforcement involvement, Smith said.
"They have not even told my family what happened," she said.
Their parents are too upset to talk. They lost their only son, her only brother, Smith said.
His dear friends are devastated too. He was fixing up a trailer to live in near his parents' place in Chugiak, said Susie Sander, a close friend. She's a waitress at Peggy's Restaurant in Anchorage where McComas used to be a dishwasher. He didn't have a regular job lately but bought and sold things online.
"Oh my gosh, he was the sweetest man," Sander said. "If you broke down on the highway, he was right there."
He didn't have much but would give food and clothing to homeless people, she said. Friends called him MacGyver because he was so good at fixing things. He wanted to stay near his parents to help them as needed, she said.
"He was not a violent person," Smith said. "He was a very soft-hearted person. He was tender."
Alaska State Troopers on Monday afternoon — 36 hours after the shooting — for the first time said that someone died.
A trooper from a Soldotna-based general investigation unit that handles major crimes traveled to Seward, and troopers based in Seward and Soldotna also are helping, according to the agency. The Seward officer received what were described as "non-life-threatening injuries."
Once the investigation is complete, it will be forwarded to the state Office of Special Prosecution in the Department of Law for review. That is standard in police-involved shootings.
The name of the officer is being withheld by authorities for 72 hours after the shooting, which also is standard practice.
McComas' history includes driving under the influence, driving without a license and theft, as well as various driving offenses, according to court records.
Smith, his sister, said she knows he hasn't lived by the book.
But the events of Sunday's traffic stop need to be examined in isolation, she said.
"Something is wrong here," she said.