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Crime & Courts

Hotel employee intervened in an assault before he was fatally shot, police say

  • Author: Tess Williams
  • Updated: December 15, 2020
  • Published December 14, 2020

Anchorage police investigate the crime scene early Thursday morning, Oct. 22, 2020 at the Chelsea Inn Hotel in Spenard. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Two brothers were charged Thursday in an October shooting at a Spenard hotel that left an employee dead.

Court documents in the case describe a woman being attacked and held against her will by one of the brothers at a Midtown Anchorage game store, a situation that later spilled into the hallways of the Chelsea Inn Hotel on Oct. 21 and ultimately ended with the death of 48-year-old Duane Fields, who worked at the hotel.

Now, nearly two months later, brothers Jacob and Josiah Pouli are each facing a charge of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting.

Police said empty bullet casings littered the lobby, hallways and parking lot of the hotel when they arrived that night. Fields had been shot in the upper body and died in the hotel before medical help arrived, the charges said. No one else was injured by the gunfire.

A woman interviewed after the shooting told investigators she was taken to the hotel against her will after being held hostage by 26-year-old Jacob Pouli earlier in the day, according to a sworn affidavit filed by detective David Cordie.

The woman said she had driven a friend to a Midtown Anchorage strip mall on the 300 block of West Benson Boulevard, where the friend left to go into a “gaming store,” the affidavit said. The woman was approached by several men who ordered her to get out of the car and go into the store, according to the charges. Inside, a man later identified as Jacob Pouli questioned her about the whereabouts of two men she knew, the affidavit said.

When she told Jacob Pouli she didn’t know where the men were, the affidavit said he began to hit her. He then brought her to a bathroom and refused to let her leave, the affidavit said.

She “felt as though if she tried to leave, he probably would have kidnapped her,” Cordie wrote. “She’s also sure they would have hurt her.”

Jacob Pouli believed the men may have been at the Chelsea Inn, so he headed there with the woman, the court document said. His friends followed behind in a white Tesla that belonged to his brother, the affidavit said.

In a hallway of the hotel, Jacob Pouli “started yelling obscenities” at the woman and hit her, according to the affidavit.

A man intervened and began to fight with Jacob Pouli, police wrote. The fight spilled into the lobby, where security footage showed Fields helping to force Jacob Pouli out of the hotel.

Outside the hotel, security cameras captured Jacob Pouli making a phone call before the Tesla pulled up, the affidavit said. Josiah Pouli and an unidentified man hopped out of the vehicle and walked into the hotel, police said. When they left, Jacob Pouli entered briefly while security cameras captured “possible bullets impacting the pavement in the parking lot,” the charges said.

Josiah Pouli got into the Tesla, which headed north on Oregon Drive, police said. Jacob Pouli and the other man ran in the direction of the car, which was by then out of sight from the hotel security cameras.

Police said the Tesla was registered to 31-year-old Josiah Pouli. Technology installed in the vehicle enabled them to pinpoint where the vehicle was at the time of the crime, the affidavit said. Cellphone towers also placed both of the brothers at the crime scene, police said. While investigating, police said multiple anonymous tips also helped identify the men.

A charge was filed for each of the Pouli brothers on Thursday and court records show that Josiah Pouli was arrested Saturday. He was assigned a public defender and is being held at the Anchorage Correctional Complex on a $500,000 bond.

Jacob F. Pouli Jr. (Anchorage Police Department)

Jacob Pouli has not yet been arrested, although a warrant was issued for him Thursday, according to court records. He also has an active warrant for his arrest on a first-degree assault charge dating back to 2015.

Early on in the investigation, police arrested two people for tampering with evidence during the homicide. Officers said a man and woman grabbed weapons that had been dropped during the initial altercation. According to the Pouli’s charges, a witness said she handed over the weapons in hopes of removing them from the area to prevent a shooting during the first fight.

Fields had been released from a federal California prison in May, when the facility became overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. He’d been serving a sentence related to drug trafficking but was granted compassionate release because he was in remission from cancer, which made him especially vulnerable to the virus.

The day before he was flown home commercially to Alaska, Fields’ COVID-19 test came back positive. Court filings in the case said he was not aware of the test result. Fields was supposed to quarantine at the Chelsea Inn, but was at his mother’s home when his probation officer called three days after his arrival in Alaska to notify him he had contracted the virus.

Fields was the first person to face charges relating to a violation of Alaska’s quarantine mandate, although the charge was later dismissed.

Soo Seo, the owner of the Chelsea Inn, described Fields as a hard worker and an honest employee. He said after the shooting that Fields died trying to help others.

He was a devoted father and enjoyed attending church services with his family, his obituary said.

“Duane was a gentle giant that would literally help anyone,” the obituary said. “If you were down and out, he was the person to go to. Duane was an honest jovial man that loved unconditionally. He was a friend to the end.”