Bat-Wielding Suspect Killed by Troopers; Glenn Highway Clogged Friday (UPDATED)
Taser was used, but was not effective
UPDATED Monday 9:45 a.m.
ALASKA - It was 4 a.m. Friday morning when troopers tried to stop 29-year-old Justin Abrahamson, who failed to signal before turning southbound on the Parks Highway. That's when troopers deployed a spike strip – but the car kept going until it burst in to flames near the Thunderbird Falls exit.
As the driver attempted to run away troopers say they tried to subdue him using a Taser.
“At this point it’s really too early on to speculate the success or failure, or what the cause of that was, but we did attempt a number of different mechanisms,“ said Colonel Keith Mallard of the troopers.
They say the man then started running toward officers with a bat, and that's when a state trooper, now identified as Sergeant Paul Anthony "Tony" Wegrzyn, a 9 year veteran of the troopers assigned to the Palmer Post, shot and killed Abrahamson. The incident shut down traffic on the Glenn Highway for hours during the morning commute between Anchorage and Wasilla
This incident has brought into question how effective Tasers really are.
“We have good policies in places, options in place, take every step possible to apprehend a suspect,” said Mallard.
Anchorage police say the effectiveness really depends on the situation.
“The Taser was designed to deal with uncooperative and hostile subjects, so the police make contact with someone ask them do something, a command, we want to place them under a arrest,” said Sergeant Sean Case of the Anchorage Police Department.
Sergeant Case says in cases where a suspect is running away, a Taser can sometimes escalate the situation.
“You have a limitation, it's a short range tool. It’s not something that you can reach out with someone at a hundred yards, so there's a distance that comes into affect.”
He says although Tasers may seem like the best form of defense, they are not always ideal.
The Alaska Bureau of investigation is asking anyone who witnessed the pursuit or the incident to call 907-269-5450.
It was a frustrating morning for thousands of commuters and vacationers using the Glenn and Parks Highways.
The 8-hour traffic diversion operation created hours of delay in both directions.
All lanes inbound and out were closed for 2 hours after the trooper shooting at 4:20 a.m..
By 6:30 a.m., Anchorage police were leading vehicles around the crime scene on the shoulder of the road.
As peak rush hour hit, traffic backed up to Wasilla and for more than a mile outbound from the Peters Creek exit as unsuspecting drivers continued to make their way up the highway from Anchorage.
"It’s our annual pilgrimage to Valdez to go silver and halibut fishing…so not a good way to start the trip, that's for sure,” said Curt Snyder, who hadn't moved for two hours.
All traffic northbound was stopped at one point, as Anchorage police set up southbound lanes to take all traffic.
At 12:30 p.m. all lanes were opened but it took hours to clear the backlog.
Photo courtesy Stacey Kolstad.