Troopers in fatal Pilot Station shooting named
Alaska State Troopers have named the four men who opened fire on an assault suspect killed during a Pilot Station standoff last week, clarifying details on a trooper’s previous sightings of him.
Palmer-based Troopers Daron Cooper and Charles Withers, as well as Alaska Bureau of Investigation investigators Shayne Calt and Curtis Vik, were the troopers who shot at 27-year-old Dwight Heckman during a Thursday “exchange of gunfire” in woods near Pilot Station. Cooper and Withers have been with AST for 10 years and five years, while Calt and Vik have troopers for 14 and 16 years.
A Tuesday dispatch identifying the men didn’t say whether the troopers’ gunfire had killed Heckman, who was found dead by members of troopers’ Special Emergency Reaction Team following the standoff. His body was taken to the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage for an autopsy.
Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said Tuesday morning that questions about how Heckman died, and whether he killed himself or was shot by troopers, are all "a part of the ongoing investigation."
Heckman had been sought since Wednesday, when he allegedly struck and strangled a woman at a local home. Troopers first reached the Western Alaska village Thursday due to poor weather.
Tuesday’s dispatch updated an account describing troopers’ two initial sightings of Heckman Thursday, which led troopers to call in SERT members for backup and surround Heckman in nearby woods that evening.
“Heckman was not located at his residence and was later seen on a ATV in the community,” troopers wrote. “When the trooper attempted to stop Heckman, Heckman got off his ATV, produced a handgun, put the gun against his own head and ran toward the woods. The trooper drew his sidearm and took cover behind the ATV as the suspect fled into the woods.”
Heckman was again spotted by the trooper at about 2:30 p.m. that afternoon, at which point “Heckman fired multiple rounds and then ran further into the woods.”
ABI is currently investigating Heckman’s death, and will turn the case over to the state Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals for review of the involved troopers’ actions.
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