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Crime & Courts

Man accused of shooting at trooper is arrested after search closed part of Richardson Highway overnight

Alaska State Troopers on Saturday arrested a man who they say shot at an officer during a vehicle chase a day earlier before fleeing on foot, prompting a search that closed down part of the Richardson Highway overnight.

Around 9:30 a.m. Friday, troopers said they received a report of a driver nearly causing a crash close to the Tok Cut-off. The car was seen heading toward the Richardson Highway roughly 10 minutes later, troopers said in an online report.

Alaska State Troopers on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, asked anyone who sees Mark Emery Heinz (pictured) to call 911, and said he should be considered armed and dangerous. (Courtesy Alaska State Troopers)

By 10 a.m. officers tried to initiate a traffic stop, but the driver, identified as Mark Emery Heinz, fled and started shooting at a trooper close to Mile 157 of the Richardson Highway, according to troopers. The uninjured trooper returned fire as the driver continued to dodge law enforcement, troopers said.

The driver eventually stopped his car and abandoned it before running into the woods near Mile 149 of the Richardson Highway, according to troopers.

Troopers released Heinz’s photo to the public Friday afternoon. They warned drivers on the highway between Valdez and Fairbanks not to pick up hitchhikers, and urged anyone who saw Heinz to call 911. The highway closure — affecting a 20- to 30-mile stretch north of Gakona — started Friday and continued Saturday, troopers spokesman Timothy DeSpain said, causing delays for drivers as troopers urged people to avoid the area.

Troopers learned of a person matching Heinz’s description, seen near Mile 131 of the Richardson Highway, around 1:20 p.m. Saturday, according to DeSpain.

Heinz was arrested without incident and was being taken to a medical facility before heading to the Mat-Su Pretrial Facility, DeSpain said.

The highway was reopened by Saturday afternoon and an investigation is continuing, DeSpain said.

In addition to troopers, Special Emergency Reaction Team members, Helo-3 and the Alaska Bureau of Investigation also responded to the incident, and troopers said they were receiving assistance from the FBI, National Park Service and Village Public Safety Officer program.