Crime & Courts

Anchorage man’s family says a series of failures after he was assaulted outside a downtown bar might have led to his death

Several things went wrong for Carl McGeary on a cold, early morning outside the Gaslight Lounge in January.

He was punched seemingly at random by a stranger outside the bar — which is directly across from Anchorage police headquarters — on Jan. 22. Neither bar employees nor witnesses called for medical help or police assistance, according to charging documents filed against the man accused of assaulting him.

Instead, Anchorage Safety Patrol arrived and McGeary was taken to the safety center. By the time he arrived, he wasn’t conscious.

McGeary, 44, was later pronounced brain dead by doctors at Providence Alaska Medical Center. He died in a hospital bed four days after he was punched.

The day after he died, police arrested the man accused of punching him on a charge of manslaughter.

After McGeary’s death, his family is left with more questions than answers.

Why did no one call 911 after he was punched? Why didn’t Anchorage Safety Patrol officers immediately take him to the hospital? And why did it take days before police launched an investigation?


“I feel like he could maybe still be here today had he got to the medics faster,” his niece Katelyn McGeary said.

“There were many opportunities where things were not done that could have helped him,” said her mother, Melissa Mitchell.

‘A very dedicated father’

Relatives said Carl McGeary was devoted to his family.

He grew up in Anchorage and moved to Bethel just before high school, said his twin brother, John McGeary. After their father died more than a dozen years ago, Carl McGeary returned to Anchorage and moved in with their mother to care for her.

He was a father to three boys and a young girl. He raised the three boys on his own and his daughter lives with her mother in rural Alaska, said John McGeary.

“He was a very dedicated father,” John McGeary said. “He was a single father — he’s a mother and a father, he had to maintain that balance of love and discipline.”

Carl McGeary looked out for the rest of his extended family too — he gave his niece money to buy school clothes and made a point of keeping in touch with relatives who lived in rural villages. He and John McGeary would often talk on Sundays, bickering playfully over football — Carl McGeary was loyal to the Seattle Seahawks, his brother said.

The day before he died, Carl McGeary went to his job at a distribution warehouse, then took his sons out for dinner at Texas Roadhouse. They planned to watch a movie but were late heading to the theater, John McGeary said.

Instead, the family went for a walk near their Mountain View home before Carl McGeary put the boys to bed, Mitchell said.

He’d recently gone through a break-up, and John McGeary said he believes his brother had gone to the bar that night hoping to meet a woman.

An apparently random act of violence

Carl McGeary walked out of the bar minutes before 3 a.m. and was standing near another man laughing, according to charges signed by Assistant District Attorney Daniel Shorey. In video footage, McGeary and the man appeared to start arguing, Shorey wrote. John Pattee, the owner of the bar, watched the security footage and said it seemed to be good-natured, like between friends.

A group of four men was standing nearby but had no interaction with McGeary or the man he was with, Pattee said. George Murfitt, 21, walked away from the group and punched McGeary at random, Shorey wrote.

“McGeary immediately falls to ground and his head strikes the pavement violently,” the charges said.

By this point, there was a crowd spilling onto downtown sidewalks as bars began closing for the night. Pattee estimates there were about 50 people outside the Gaslight Lounge in the 15 minutes following the assault.

Murfitt remained outside the bar and “at one point, raises his arms in a victory celebration and dances in a circle,” Shorey wrote.

No one called 911 for medical or police assistance, the charges said.

Pattee said his staff calls 911 if things get out of hand and they are always supposed to call for help if someone is injured. He said his staff didn’t see Murfitt punch McGeary but were told about it afterward.


At some point, Anchorage Safety Patrol was called to the bar to respond to McGeary. It is not clear who called for assistance. Safety patrol is dispatched by the Anchorage Fire Department Call Center to respond to reports of people who appear to be incapacitated by alcohol or drugs in public, according to the municipality’s website.

Every safety patrol team is composed of a driver and state-certified emergency medical technician, according to the program’s policies and procedures manual.

McGeary was sitting up and conscious when safety patrol arrived, Shorey wrote. The officers spoke with a bar security guard, who told them McGeary had reportedly been punched, Pattee said.

From the video, Pattee said there were not any visible signs of a large loss of blood. McGeary was talking but could not walk, Pattee said.

It doesn’t appear from the video that safety patrol staff evaluated McGeary before they loaded him into the van, according to Pattee. He said they were there for only a few minutes total, he said.

“He had to be carried. He could not walk to the van,” Pattee said. “They carried him — they almost dropped him.”

Corey Allen Young, a spokesman for Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s office, said the city will not answer questions or provide comment about safety patrol’s interactions with McGeary because it is part of an active police investigation.

Safety patrol brought McGeary to the Anchorage Safety Center, a municipal-owned facility that provides a monitored space for sobering. The center is located next to the Anchorage Correctional Complex.


When McGeary arrived at the safety center, he was no longer responsive, police said. It’s not clear how long he was in the safety patrol van or how much of that time he spent unresponsive.

Safety patrol officers called for medical help and McGeary was brought to Providence Alaska Medical Center, according to the charging documents.

Family seeks answers

When John McGeary got a phone call from the hospital, he knew his brother’s condition was serious, but he said there weren’t many other details provided to him. He got on a plane from the Southwest Alaska community of Kongiganak, where he lives, and headed to Anchorage.

John McGeary said he was told by a nurse that she didn’t know if his brother had been assaulted or if he’d slipped. He said it was hard to get an official answer from anyone about what had happened.

Police launched an investigation on Jan. 24 — two days after the assault — after John McGeary reached out to the department.

After reviewing security footage from the bar and speaking with employees, police identified Murfitt as a suspect, the charges said. Murfitt is a private first class in the U.S. Army and is stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. During a search of his barracks, investigators found clothing matching what was seen in the video, according to charges.

He was arrested last week and is being held at the Anchorage Correctional Center on $10,000 bail.

Pattee said that his staff recognized Murfitt as a man who returned to the bar the day after assaulting Carl McGeary and tried to start another fight in the back parking lot. He wasn’t allowed into the bar that night, Pattee said.

The assault was a random act of violence that resulted in tragedy, Pattee said.

John McGeary said he wants answers about what happened leading up to his brother’s death. There were so many things that could have been done to help Carl McGeary.

“In general, this was a failure in the name of humanity,” he said.

John McGeary wants people to remember his brother, even if that only means stopping to check on someone who appears hurt. He wants people to speak up and call for help when things go wrong.


John McGeary said that what his brother endured was not fair, and he doesn’t want another family to endure the same heartache and grief that his family is experiencing.

“I want justice, first and foremost,” he said. “And after that, I want the kids to be taken care of. He cannot take care of them from the grave.”

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at