ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A gunman repeatedly shot an Alaska police officer in an ambush early Saturday morning as the officer lay on the ground near his police cruiser, Anchorage police said.
The officer was expected to survive and was rushed to emergency surgery, department spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said. The suspect died in the shootout.
“I have watched the video from this situation. It was a clear and intentional ambush,” Anchorage Police Chief Chris Tolley said at a Saturday morning news conference.
He said it will “take a while to sort through the information, conduct interviews of those involved and other potential witnesses as well as collecting other evidence,” when asked if it was a premeditated attack on the officer.
Castro said dash cam video from several cruisers would likely be released later next week.
The shooting happened before 5 a.m. in downtown Anchorage as the officer was responding to reports of a theft suspect in the area on foot.
“The officer was pulling his patrol vehicle over and a man brandished a gun and started firing at the officer,” Castro said in an earlier email to The Associated Press.
The suspect “totally surprised the officer,” Tolley said at the news conference. But the officer’s training took over, and he was able to return fire and additional officers were on the scene almost immediately.
“Once they got the suspect under control, our officers tried to save this individual’s life. They were unsuccessful at it, and the individual died at the scene,” Tolley said.
“I am very, very proud of the professionalism,” he said, of not only his officers but the support staff at the police department.
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz added: “I think it’s a reminder that when we hear sirens, somebody’s heading into danger and they’re doing it to make sure the entire community is safe. The response of the police department reflects a tremendous amount of not just professionalism, but courage.”
Police have not released the names of the officers involved or the suspect. Per department policy, the officers’ names will be released in three days and the suspect’s name after next-of-kin are notified.
Both the department and the state will conduct reviews to determine if the use of force was within department guidelines and justified.
It’s the second shooting involving Alaska officers in the past month.
Sgt. Allen Brandt, an 11-year veteran of the Fairbanks Police Department, was shot Oct. 16. He died Oct. 28 in Anchorage of complications during surgery.
Brandt’s death 12 days after being shot weighed on Tolley’s mind Saturday as he thought about his injured officer.
“The officer does not seem to have life-threatening wounds, but we know only too well how things like this can turn,” Tolley said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the officer.”
Brandt was attacked as he responded to calls of a shooting in a neighborhood east of downtown Fairbanks. Video from his dashboard camera showed his car slowing to a stop as Anthony Jenkins-Alexie, 29, approached on foot on the sidewalk.
The video showed Jenkins-Alexie, armed with a handgun, dashing in front of the car. Prosecutors say Jenkins-Alexie shot Brandt as Brandt tried to take cover behind his patrol car. He was hit six times. Jenkins-Alexie is charged with first- and second-degree murder and other counts.