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Crime & Courts

Man arrested in hit-and-run that killed woman in front of Brother Francis Shelter, Anchorage police say

Third Avenue draws pedestrians and campers in the area of the Brother Francis Shelter and Bean's Cafe, on July 26, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN)

The driver of a pickup struck and killed a woman in front of the Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage late Thursday night, then kept driving while witnesses followed and reported him, police say.

The woman struck in front of the shelter was declared dead at the scene.

Mikaele Palelei, 43, was arrested Friday morning just a couple blocks from the accident, police say. At his arraignment Friday afternoon, Palelei was charged with one count of leaving an accident without assisting, a felony. He has no previous criminal record.

A witness told police that they saw Palelei driving a Ford F-150 when he struck the woman and then drove away from the scene, according to charging documents filed in Anchorage District Court.

The witness followed the pickup to a dirt lot at Fourth Avenue and Gambell Street, where they yelled to Palelei to return to the scene, according to the charging documents. Palelei then drove east to Fourth Avenue and Karluk Street, and he got out of the vehicle with three other passengers, the witness told officers. Anchorage police spokesman MJ Thim said the passengers were a male adult and two juveniles.

One of the juveniles then drove the pickup to Fifth Avenue and Juneau Street, where Anchorage police officers stopped the vehicle, according to the witness. The witness then identified Palelei to officers as the driver of the pickup at the time of the accident, the charging documents state.

Mikaele Palelei, 43, was arraigned at the Anchorage Jail on charges of failure to render aid after police said a pickup he was driving struck and killed a woman in front of the Brother Francis Shelter late Thursday. (Marc Lester / ADN)

The charges state that officers conducted tests to evaluate Palelei’s ability to drive and determined that he was under the influence of cannabis. Palelei told officers he had consumed several alcoholic drinks that afternoon, and he provided a breath alcohol concentration of 0.000, according to the charging documents. Police officers received a warrant to draw blood and results were still pending Friday.

On the evening of the accident, Daniel Rumpke, 36, was staying at Brother Francis Shelter. Rumpke said Friday morning that he didn’t see the woman when she was struck by the pickup the night before, but he heard a scream and ran outside.

Rumpke said a crowd had gathered around the woman, whom he knew. Someone called 911. Dispatchers told them to start CPR, he said. Rumpke said he did, even though her injuries were very serious.

"I knew right then and there she was gone, but I wouldn’t give up on her,” he said. He continued CPR until medics arrived.

The woman’s identity has not been released, pending notification of relatives.

Palelei’s bail was set at $10,000, and he is expected in court again 2 p.m. Thursday.

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