Downtown Traffic Stop Escalates to Officer-Involved Shooting
ANCHORAGE - What began as a traffic stop at East 12th Avenue and Denali Street Sunday night ended with two officers shooting the driver.
“The suspect produced a handgun, pointed it at officers, at which time they went and fired upon the suspect as they retreated to their vehicle,” said Lieutenant Anthony Henry.
Anchorage police say the wounded male driver is still recovering in hospital.
Police say there were also two other people in the car, and neither was wounded.
“Those situations are dynamic they unfold rapidly and the officers have to assess the threat to them, the threat that's in front of them, as well as the innocent bystanders the surroundings,” said Lieutenant Henry.
The police union said training prepares officers for the sort of split second decision-making needed on Sunday night.
"Particularly when dealing with vehicles, we have a special segment of the police academy that deals with shooting into or from vehicles,” said Derek Hsieh, president of the Anchorage Police Union.
“We employ target situations that involve a mix of shoot and don't shot targets fore decision making,” said Hsieh.
Lieutenant Henry said traffic stops are among the most dangerous situations officers encounter nationwide -- and that rings true here in Anchorage.
It's just the latest in about half a dozen police involved shootings this year alone, a trend which Lieutenant Henry said isn’t isolated to Alaska.
"Nationally there is a trend that is alarming that officers are more frequently being assaulted, ambushed, unprovoked attacks on officers. Our numbers are higher… they are certainly as high as they've ever been."
The union agrees.
“There's absolutely no question that there's been an increase in officer involved shootings in Alaska as a whole not just with the Anchorage Police Department,” said Hsieh.
Anchorage police officers shot and killed 59-year-old Harry Smith and 26-year-old Shane Tasi this past summer.
In both cases the officers’ use of deadly force was justified.
“We obviously try to employ a lot of different techniques, less lethal options, but [in] a lot of these situations you see these shootings occur, the officers are being attacked,” said Lieutenant Henry.
Derek Hsieh said everyone has an option.
“People always have the opportunity to cooperate with the police, which makes it impossible or very difficult for an officer to justify any use of force what so over,” said Hsieh.