Tolley: Officer shot multiple times in 'ambush' attack; suspect killed
An Anchorage police officer is undergoing emergency surgery after being shot multiple times in an 'ambush' attack, Police Chief Chris Tolley said in a press conference Saturday morning.
The shooting took place at about 4:30 a.m. near 5th Avenue and Cordova Street when the officer was trying to identify a theft suspect.
"Almost immediately the person who this officer came into contact with, ambushed the officer, totally surprised the officer," Tolley said. "Because of the way the Anchorage Police Department trains its personnel, this officer took quick action and almost immediately other officers arrived at the scene."
The suspect was shot and killed at the scene. The officer who was injured in the gunfire was taken to a hospital and Tolley said he did not 'seem to have life-threatening wounds.'
"We are seeing this across our state. We are seeing this across our nation and around the world," Tolley said. "I'm overwhelmed by the public's outreach to the police department."
Tolley also stressed the importance of more staffing at the Anchorage Police Department. "It is so critical that we get to the staffing levels that make the streets as safe as possible because ultimately that is the goal is to make the streets as safe as possible and the citizens in Anchorage safe," he said.
Here is a transcript of Tolley's press conference:
"Anchorage had a citizen who was ambushed today. The thing that made it very concerning was that citizen was a police officer. Officers out on the streets in early morning hours, doing what we do each and every day and night. This officer was attempting to identify an individual that was potentially involved in a theft. And almost immediately the person who this officer came into contact with ambushed the officer -- totally surprised the officer -- but because of the way the Anchorage Police Department trains its personnel, this officer took quick action and almost immediately other officers arrived at the scene. And even though the officer was shot multiple times, officers returned fire and subdued the suspect.
Once they got this suspect under control, the officers tried to save this person's life. They were unsuccessful at it and the individual died there at the scene. the officer was taken to an area hospital and surgery has already begun. The officer does not seem to have life-threatening wounds, but we know only too well how things like this can turn, but our thoughts and prayers are with the officer. We are seeing this across our state. We are seeing this across our nation and around the world. I'm overwhelmed by the public's outreach to the police department. We are so grateful to the public and the citizens of Anchorage in that they are doing their part in growing the department and showing support for the police department. It is so critical that we get to the staffing levels that make the streets as safe as possible because ultimately that is the goal is to make the streets as safe as possible and the citizens in Anchorage safe.
I am very very proud of the professionalism shown by not only the officers but there's so much behind the scenes that takes place in a situation like this. As you can only imagine what the dispatchers were going through trying to make sure that key assistance and help were dispatched as quickly as possible and try to figure things out as quickly as possible. I am so thankful for our support personnel in the crime scene and the detectives and everybody else that immediately was put into action and did just that. So, the final message with this is that we are so grateful for this community and the community support and we really appreciate that and I am very proud of our officers and our unsworn personnel."
Q: What can you tell us about the officer who was wounded?
A: "We don't want to release too much information about the officer. As you can imagine in a situation like this we give that a few days for a number of reasons, to make sure all family are notified and that those notifications go out. Same with the suspect in this situation. We want to positively identify the individual to make sure those family members are properly notified and when those details become available we will get them out to you, which will be about three days."
Q: Is there any indication this was just a chance encounter between the suspect and the police officer or was there any pre-planning done on the part of the suspect?
A: "I have watched a video from this situation. It was a clear and intentional ambush but it will take a while to sort through the information, conduct interviews of those involved and other potential witnesses as well as collection other evidence. And as we sort through those and the details become available then we'll get those out to you. It wouldn't be fair to put too much information out there right because we don't want witnesses to be swayed by information that's put out there."
Q: Just a couple of days ago there was a major discovery of four suspects involved in kidnapping and assault and there was a huge amount of stolen material found in this person's house. Is there a relation here?
A: "I don't know about any direct relation but as we can see that each one of these crimes started out as a theft investigation and these thefts can sometimes escalate into more violent-type situations where individuals think that they can use force and use deadly force at that to carry out what we have often considered as not as serious crimes, theft and so on. So, that's the tragic correlation between the two."
Q: It was nearly a week ago that we saw a number of law enforcement come out to Fairbanks for Sgt. Allen Brandt's memorial service. Could you talk about morale within APD right now?
A: "This is only too similar in that not just here in Alaska, but like I referred to elsewhere in our nation. This is unfortunate that people want to chose that as a way of life. Just Thursday night, two nights ago, I was at an event for looking at our youth and young adults who are taking positive steps and actions in their community, helping one another as they're trying to set good examples for one another. I was just so proud to be part of that, that their community takes those actions. Police can't do everything in the community, but we will be out there on the streets and trying to make it safer for those youth and those young adults as well as every citizen in Anchorage."
Q: Any witnesses to this?
A: "There are individuals who potentially saw things and we are putting those together and conducting those interviews."
(No more questions)
"Once again, I want to thank Mayor Berkowitz for having the leadership and showing the importance of public safety in Anchorage and making that a number one top priority for him as well as all the citizens in Anchorage who have supported the police department in the sale goals, making Anchorage safe. And above all, I am so proud of the men and women that make up the Anchorage Police Department. Those in uniform, sworn and unsworn. It takes a whole team. It is amazing how professional they are, and I've been fortunate to see many, many departments over years in my different assignments around the Unites States as well as other places in the world and there's not many as great as this department. Anchorage is fortunate. Thank you very much."
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
Anchorage police say a man who shot an officer multiple times was shot and killed early this morning downtown.
The officer was undergoing emergency surgery this morning and was expected to survive, police said. The encounter was reported to dispatchers at 4:36 a.m. in the area of 5th Avenue and Cordova Street.
The officer had been responding to a report of a theft suspect who was on foot, police wrote. “As the officer was initiating a stop, a male brandishing a gun approached the patrol car and started firing."
In a community alert that described the attack as an ambush, police say the officer returned fired. Another police officer arrive and also shot at the man, who was declared dead at the scene, according to police.
The gunfire and subsequent investigation temporarily closed 5th Avenue between Denali and Barrow streets.
The Office of Special Prosecutions will review the case and the officers who shot at the man will be placed on mandatory leave, per APD policy.
Anchorage police are holding a news conference this morning to discuss the shooting. This story will be updated when more information becomes available.