Juneau mayor died of natural causes, police say

JUNEAU -- Newly elected Mayor Greg Fisk died of natural causes Monday, and facial injuries that sparked rumors of an assault actually came from a fall, Juneau police said Wednesday.

"The first assumption was someone had done something to him," said Bryce Johnson, Juneau police chief.

An autopsy was conducted by the State Medical Examiner Office in Anchorage, Johnson told reporters at a press conference in Juneau Wednesday afternoon. Two Juneau detectives in Anchorage on other business attended the autopsy, he said.

The cause of death has not been specified, but Fisk had a history of heart issues, Johnson said.

Fisk's family was given the autopsy results privately before the public announcement, he said.

The results from the autopsy are preliminary, but the conclusion that the 70-year-old Fisk died of natural causes fits the evidence at the scene. Fisk appears to have fallen and hit a counter and other objects, but the facial injuries and other bruising would not have killed him, Johnson said.

The final autopsy results, which would include toxicology tests, may take much longer, but Johnson said police are confident in what they've released so far.


Fisk's body was discovered Monday afternoon by his son, Ian Fisk, after the mayor had missed morning appointments. Johnson said police believe the mayor died in the morning.

Ian Fisk wouldn't comment on the autopsy, referring a reporter to a statement issued to the Associated Press Tuesday saying the family was grieving privately.

Fisk's sudden death the month after his landslide victory led to speculation of "nefarious" activity, Johnson said.

While the loss of a beloved mayor is tragic for Juneau, he said, the lack of a clear cause of death led to the story getting national attention, highlighting its mystery.

"There was a time period in which we just didn't have any answers, and people being people, they run with the unknown that couple of days," Johnson said.

Police were also doing a standard investigation with any unattended death, including interviewing neighbors and other relevant parties and collecting potential evidence at the scene, actions which may have led to rumors, he said.

"It's Juneau, Alaska -- it's an exotic location, it's a newly elected mayor," he said. "It's an intriguing story."

He defended how the Juneau Police Department handled the case and its slow release of information in the first hours and days.

"We didn't have any information to provide at that point; we would have just been guessing," he said. "I don't think there's anything more we could have provided."

Johnson acknowledged the Monday statement addressing the rumors may have heightened the interest in the mysterious death nationally, but said his goal was to offer information to the residents of Juneau that police had made no conclusion yet, he said.

A Juneau Assembly meeting that was to have taken place Monday has been rescheduled for Dec. 21. Deputy Mayor Mary Becker has taken over as mayor.