Wasilla mayoral candidate's war against 'police state' includes long-ago urge to ambush Vegas officers

WASILLA -- Loren Means, a candidate for Wasilla mayor and a current city planning commissioner, once stalked and planned to ambush Las Vegas jail officers, and this summer he told a Wasilla police officer that a head shot was the only way to kill an officer wearing body armor.

An email about the Las Vegas incident as well as several encounters with local police surfaced Thursday in a packet Mayor Verne Rupright distributed to the Wasilla City Council.

Rupright wrote in a brief introduction that he wanted to inform the council because Means is an appointed city official, though he didn't directly ask them to remove him from the planning commission.

Some Wasilla council members on Friday expressed dismay at the allegations -- though they wanted a chance to talk with Means about them -- but also disappointment that the mayor didn't say or do anything until now, with local elections less than a month away. Rupright isn't running again for mayor but his deputy administrator is.

Here's what the packet holds:

This summer, Means told Wasilla Police Chief Gene Belden that he once stalked Las Vegas law enforcement officials to find their homes and then got a deer rifle and started back to ambush them before thinking better of it and turning around, according to an email Belden sent city, state officials and federal Homeland Security officials on July 11.

"I guess the point here is he went out of his way to follow these officers, to locate their homes, and to retrieve his rifle with the thought of ambush," Belden wrote. "Even though he turned around prior to actually carrying out the ambushes he made an effort to carry out his goal with all the stalking. (So he says)"


Belden warns Means "may be a person to watch" given that story and a July 1 encounter at Wasilla City Hall with Wasilla officer Rick Manrique.

Manrique, in a separate email to the chief, said Means told him "that when anarchy (and I'm paraphrasing) breaks out he will have to go for head shots because you are wearing body armor and he is not. Means said he isn't currently armed etc. I smiled and told him thankfully I don't believe it will ever result in anarchy."

Means, in a phone interview Friday afternoon, said both stories are essentially true but lacked crucial context and an understanding of what makes the 58-year-old general contractor who he is today.

The Vegas incident happened in the early 1980s when he was in his early 20s, he said. He was jailed for refusing to pay a fine for expired tags on his motorcycle. Placed in a solitary cell, Means said he refused to get fingerprinted and three officers roughed him up, forcing him to strip and leaving him in the chilly cell overnight. The next morning, he said, he returned to court in a ripped T-shirt covered in blood from his nose to face a judge.

He paid a fine, left the courthouse and headed out feeling like he was on "the offensive" and then did what the chief described him as doing.

But, Means said, he told Belden the story to make it clear how life-changing that day was for him.

"The gray matter between my ears was the only thing that stopped me from doing something we all know is absolutely wrong," Means said Friday. "That day I learned something that's assisted me every day of my life: I absolutely know right and wrong. I had the choice to make the wrong decision. I made the correct choice and did not."

As for the conversation with Manrique, he said, "it's something I've said more than once: The only shot that counts with a police officer is a head shot." But, he continued, that comment reflects his deep skepticism with the "war armor" police wear and the toll they take on private citizens in the United States.

The mayor's packet also references two more recent encounters by Means with Wasilla police last month, one during a stop of a speeding ATV and one after teenagers were involved in a criminal mischief case at McDonald's. And the packet points to a potentially illegal conversation Means had with an Alaska Railroad official on a permit application.

Contacted Friday, Rupright said he "didn't want to get in the middle" of the situation with Means but felt he had to.

"He's a public officer and he's running for public office," Rupright said.

He hadn't yet considered whether he wanted to remove Means from the planning commission, he said.

Rupright has reached term limits for his office and is not running for re-election but he is running against state Rep. Lynn Gattis for her House seat.

Rupright's deputy city administrator, Bert Cottle, is running for mayor. Cottle, a former Valdez mayor, spent 22 years on that city's police force, including eight years as chief.

Means, a latecomer to the mayor's race, is Cottle's only opponent.

Two city council members reached Friday said they wanted to talk to Means before commenting on the allegations in any detail.

"I find these allegations very disturbing," council member Brandon Wall said in an email Friday. "I'm disappointed that we are just seeing this information now, particularly the bit about Means stalking law enforcement officers in Nevada. If that information was serious enough for the chief to send to the Department of Homeland Security in July, it should have warranted notifying the city council."


Council member Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, a prior mayoral candidate who dropped out of the race, said she felt blindsided by the information about Means, especially since the administration was aware of it for the last two months.

"Why they haven't done something is beyond me," Sullivan-Leonard said. "At least let the council be privileged to this information (instead of) ... waiting for the political cycle to hit and all of a sudden -- bang!"

Rupright scheduled two executive sessions to talk about the matter but later canceled them, the council members said.

Rupright talked with Means about his concerns over the public safety comments before he left for a mid-August conference, he said. Means asked if the mayor wanted to remove him from the planning commission, which he has the authority to do. Rupright said he wasn't sure.

Rupright said he then heard about the two additional encounters with police after he got back from a conference in Nome -- and after Means declared his candidacy for mayor.

In one, Means walked up to two officers making a stop on an ATV on Knik-Goose Bay Road and told them "he was running for mayor and going to stop this police state" but also reported another speeding ATV, according to an Aug. 20 email from Belden.

That's partly true, Means said Friday. He believes a police state is possible in the future, and spotted a female rider going 42 mph with no helmet on the sidewalk. Means was the only planning commissioner to vote against a proposed off-road vehicle ban.

"She's doing everything that's causing problems for ATVs," he said.


In the other incident, Belden wrote, Means approached an officer dealing with a criminal mischief report at McDonalds and wanted "to know why it takes (so) many cops to do the job" and also said he was running for mayor and wanted to know more about the police department.

Means said he never got out of his pickup and waited for the officer and a sergeant to approach him, but that he was frustrated to see four police officers -- basically the city's entire force available at any one time -- responding to what turned out to be a teenager who kicked out part of a door at McDonald's.

Means, who said he is an advocate for homeless youth, said the city needs to find more constructive ways to deal with them instead of trying to chase them out of town.

He said he doesn't think the mayor will get "traction" with the city council if he asks them to remove him from the planning commission.

The council's next regular meeting is scheduled for Sept. 22.

Contact Zaz Hollander at

Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at