Victim’s family questions official account of Seward police shooting
The family of a Chugiak man handcuffed and fatally shot by a Seward police officer earlier this month shared additional details on his death Thursday, raising questions about officials’ description of the shooting as the result of a traffic stop.
Micah McComas, 41, was shot and killed Oct. 1 outside the Carrs Safeway grocery store in Seward by 13-year SPD veteran Officer Matthew “Eddie” Armstrong, according to Alaska State Troopers. This week troopers, who were asked to investigate the shooting by Seward police, pulled McComas over for a speeding violation which troopers said became a drug investigation.
McComas had been cuffed and placed in the back seat of Armstrong’s vehicle, troopers said, but somehow got into the front seat and tried to drive away – at which point Armstrong shot him.
On Thursday morning McComas’ sister, Krista Smith, told reporters that “the questions that we are asking are not an indictment of the people who protect us.” The family is not drawing conclusions about the case or immediately planning a lawsuit, after consulting with state authorities investigating the shooting.
“This week the family was also able to view Micah’s body,” Smith said, pausing to hold back tears. “After viewing Micah’s body, we can confirm that his body had seven bullet holes.”
Two of McComas’ fingers had been shot off, Smith said, as she listed a series of injuries to his torso.
“There was another shot under his arm, that was described to us as a ‘contact wound’ by a former medical examiner,” Smith said. “It has been explained to us that a contact wound means that the muzzle of the officer's gun would have been pressed into Micah's flesh and discharged.”
Troopers declined to answer further questions from KTVA this week about the case. Seward Police Chief Tom Clemons had previously declined comment on the case as well, deferring to troopers.
On Thursday, Smith said troopers initially told the family only that McComas had been shot and killed, without mentioning police involvement. Armstrong’s name wasn’t released until three days after the shooting, under SPD policy.
Smith said that McComas’s family and Alaskans deserve to know whether lethal force had been justified in his death.
“If the officer had handcuffed and then properly secured Micah in the back of the car, then how is it possible he could have been a threat?” Smith asked. “What would have led to the necessity to press a gun to his flesh and shoot multiple times?”
For now, however, the family is awaiting more detail from troopers on the case, and a subsequent review by the state Office of Special Prosecutions of whether criminal charges are justified.
“We will wait for the conclusion of the investigation being done by [troopers], and then we will wait for the decision of the attorney general’s office,” Smith said. “We believe that we want the same thing and that is the truth.”
McComas’ family has set up a website celebrating his life and compiling information about the case.
Daniella Rivera and Ken Kulovany contributed information to this story.