Crime & Courts

Shooting victim at Midtown Anchorage hotel was U.S. Army sergeant at JBER

The man shot and killed Saturday morning at a Midtown hotel was a U.S. Army sergeant and logistical specialist at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson who joined the Army in 2013.

A U.S. Army Alaska spokesman on Tuesday said 30-year-old Julian Francis Jr. served with the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.

Francis — who was originally from Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands — joined the Army in November 2013, according to a press release. His first assignment was at Fort Wainwright in early 2014, U.S. Army Alaska spokesman John Pennell said.

Francis completed the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning in 2017 and was assigned to Fort Bragg for three years before reporting to JBER in August 2020.

A 22-year-old Anchorage man was jailed on murder charges Monday in connection with the fatal shooting Saturday.

Brent Avery Smith is accused of killing Francis next to the indoor swimming pool at the Hyatt House hotel in Midtown, according to charging documents filed in the case. The motive behind the shooting was unclear, according to a sworn affidavit filed with the charges.

The Anchorage Police Department is the lead investigating agency on the homicide, with support from the Army Criminal Investigation Division, Pennell said.

Francis’ battalion, nicknamed the Centurions, “deeply feels this loss and we offer our sincere condolences to friends and family,” Lt. Col. Raphael A. Jimenez II, the battalion’s commander, said in a statement.

“Sgt. Francis was an integral part of our Centurion family; an empathetic leader who inspired the paratroopers around him,” Jimenez said. “He brought joy to his soldier’s lives through his witty retorts and an ever-present smile.”

His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and the Parachutist Badge, according to the release.

Pennell said no other military members were involved in Saturday’s incident as far as he knew.

Witnesses told police the group that included Francis spent about an hour in the pool area before Smith, who went by the name Jakota, pulled out a handgun and shot Francis, then fled the area, according to the affidavit.

Smith remains jailed at Anchorage Correctional Complex on $750,000 cash bail.

Zaz Hollander

Longtime ADN reporter Zaz Hollander is based in the Mat-Su and is currently focused on coverage of the coronavirus in Alaska. She also covers the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at zhollander@adn.com.

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