Why a heavily tattoed man decided shooting an Anchorage police officer would be a good idea isn't quite clear. It was a shot that on Thursday drew swift attention and a full-force response from Alaska's largest police department.
The suspected cop shooter was taken into custody around 1:30 p.m. -- in front of "probably everyone on shift" at the Anchorage Police Department, Chief Mark Mew said afterward -- ending a two-hour standoff at the Merrill Field Inn just east of downtown.
The short, white male may be in his 20s or 30s. Don't expect police to immediately identify him, said Lt. Dave Parker, a department spokesman. That's because he was shot in his right shoulder at some point in the standoff; late Thursday he was still hospitalized and had not yet been charged with any crimes.
He had stayed overnight at the Sitka Street inn, across the busy Fifth Avenue corridor from the airfield's runways. A hotel housecleaner said two others -- a man and a woman -- had been in the room, too, but that he'd not noticed anything "unusual" about the guests. Before checkout, at least eight police patrol cars surrounded him at the hotel, cutting off traffic at a busy time of day in a busy area of town.
Police were investigating a string of burglaries, which led them to the hotel Thursday morning. Police made their way to the suspect's room, communicating with one of the other room occupants while the suspect camped out in the bathroom.
Chief: Hotel evacuation, complicated standoff
Police spotted what they believed to be evidence of the burglaries inside the hotel room. And that's when the shots rang out -- at least three or four -- the housekeeper recalled. One of the bullets grazed an Anchorage Police officer in the back, Chief Mew said. Officers shot back and were able to clear the man and woman out of the room while the suspect stayed behind. Police assumed he carried a handgun, Mew said.
The hotel was evacuated -- a process that complicated the standoff, Mew said. Once all the hotel occupants were out and transported away from the scene by an APD SWAT Team armored vehicle known as "The Bear," arresting the suspect actually "went rather quickly," the chief said.
The man, who appeared to have two wounds to the arms, surrendered before the SWAT Team officers attempted to enter. He was arrested, and was able to walk down the stairs, where he was put on a gurney and wheeled into an ambulance.
It will be at least 72 hours before police identify the officer who was shot, per municipal policy, since the officer returned fire on the suspect. Officers who shoot their weapons during an operation are treated as suspects in the case, and their names are withheld. Mew believed two officers returned fire; both were taken to a police station.
Mew said APD detectives and the municipal District Attorney's office will file appropriate charges once the investigation has been concluded, adding he was relieved no one was killed.