Crime & Courts

Man accused of attempted murder hid behind child before Anchorage police shot him, charges say

APD, Anchorage Police Department, gun, police, shooting

A 36-year-old man faces charges including attempted murder and kidnapping following a confrontation Friday in which he was shot and wounded by an Anchorage police officer after he placed a young child in front of him as a shield, charging documents said.

Police on Monday identified the man as Michael Valu and the officer as Curtis Wockenfuss, who has served with the the department since December 2017.

The incident began when police were called to a home in Northeast Anchorage just before 5 a.m. Friday based on reports Valu fired a gun at a woman during an argument, according to charging documents filed by Assistant District Attorney Whitney Marie Bostick.

The woman was holding a child when Valu “pointed the gun directly at her head and then fired,” the charges said.

Three other people were in the living room with the woman and child when Valu fired, Bostick wrote. The bullet pierced a wall and entered another room where two people were sleeping, the charges said.

No one was injured.

Valu fled in a Nissan Pathfinder with an elementary-school-age child, police said. Police Chief Michael Kerle said Friday that Valu is related to the child.

An officer found the abandoned Nissan near Lake Otis Parkway and Tudor Road around 6:30 a.m. Friday, police said. Officers then saw Valu walking across Lake Otis next to the child.

When Valu saw police, he placed the child between himself and the officers, using the child “as a shield” by crouching behind them, the charges said.

He ignored police commands and then pointed a handgun at officers, Kerle said.

“The responding officers were in fear of being shot by Valu,” Bostick wrote.

Wockenfuss fired twice and struck Valu in the midsection, according to police. He was brought to a hospital and expected to survive.

Police said the child “appeared to be uninjured.”

During part of the incident, a witness in a car was trapped between the APD officers and Valu, according to the charging document.

On Monday, police spokeswoman Renee Oistad would not answer questions about whether officers fired while the child was still in front of Valu or if there was a risk that the child could have been hit by police gunfire.

Oistad also did not answer a question about what department policy dictates officers should do in such situations.

The Office of Special Prosecutions will review the shooting to determine if the officer’s use of force was justified, police said. Once the state review is completed, APD Internal Affairs will review the officer’s actions for any violation of policy.

Valu is now facing a charge of attempted murder, two counts of kidnapping, 15 charges of felony third-degree assault and misconduct involving weapons because a previous felony conviction barred him from legally owning a gun. He was previously convicted of felony driving under the influence and has misdemeanor convictions for assault and criminal mischief.

Valu was being held Monday at the Anchorage Correctional Complex. He refused to appear for a court hearing on Monday. He is scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.

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