Virginia Man Shot, Killed by Alaska State Troopers Near Healy
FAIRBANKS — Two Alaska State Troopers killed a Virginia man about 20 miles north of Healy on Friday after he shot another man twice with a handgun.
Atom Ziniewicz, 34, of Falls Church, Va., was fatally shot by the two troopers around noon Friday near milepost 270 of the Parks Highway. The shooting came about five hours after troopers had launched a manhunt for Ziniewicz that disrupted traffic along a nine-mile stretch of the highway for several hours.
Troopers hadn’t released many details about the shooting as of 5 p.m. Friday, only that Ziniewicz was armed when members of the Special Emergency Reaction Team attempted to arrest him. The trooper report did not indicate whether Ziniewicz threatened troopers or pointed a firearm at them.
Troopers were searching for him after receiving a report that Ziniewicz had shot a man twice with a handgun.
The victim, Brenton A. Green, 21, of Wasilla, was transported to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for two gunshot wounds and released.
According to troopers, Ziniewicz confronted Green and a woman, Kimberly J. Scharber, 21, of Wasilla, who were staying in a cabin near milepost 270. The man threatened both Green and Scharber and shot Green twice. The couple fled the area and reported the shooting to troopers in Fairbanks at 6:45 a.m.
Troopers from Healy, Cantwell, Fairbanks and Palmer, including a K-9 team and SERT members, responded to the area and established a perimeter.
Armed with rifles and dressed in camouflage, troopers scoured the stretch of the highway looking for Ziniewicz. Checkpoints were set up at mile markers 267 and 276 to warn motorists not to stop, not to pick up hitchhikers and to report any suspicious activity along that stretch of the road at either checkpoint.
Troopers located Ziniewicz about noon, but it was unclear exactly where he was found.
The Alaska Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting. As per department policy, the names of the troopers who shot Ziniewicz are being withheld for 72 hours.
Locals in Healy who had contact with Ziniewicz described him as a drifter who showed up earlier this summer in the community about 20 miles north of Denali Park. Ziniewicz told several people in the community that he was a former Green Beret and was planning to live in the woods this winter and write a book.
Terry Miller, who owns Denali Dome Home Bed and Breakfast on Healy Spur Road, said Ziniewicz stayed there for three nights about three weeks ago. “Crazy” and “lost” were the two words Miller used to describe Ziniewicz.
“He was going out into the wild to do his own thing,” Miller said. “He had a lot of problems.”
Workers at Mt. View Liquor and Grocery Store in Healy, where Ziniewicz mainly bought alcohol and chewing tobacco, said Ziniewicz told them he was planning to write a book.
Clerk Eric Helwig said Ziniewicz came in at one point and bought $400 of chewing tobacco and $400 in liquor. Ziniewicz had a tattoo on one hand that said “Know Thy Enemy” and carried a pistol on his side, but other than that and the fact he claimed to be a former Green Beret, he seemed like “an average, nice guy,” Helwig said.
“He seemed sane to me,” Helwig said. “He never showed any distaste toward me.”
But other clerks in the store described Ziniewicz as “a sketchy guy with an odd attitude,” said clerk Vaughn McCombs, who never met Ziniewicz but talked with other clerks who did.
An autopsy will be performed Monday by the State Medical Examiner’s Office.
Contact Fairbanks Daily News-Miner staff writer Tim Mowry at 907-459-7587.