ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Nearly two days after a car carrying more than two men opened fire on an Anchorage police officer, authorities in Alaska’s largest city continued to search for the unknown attackers.
“We’re following all leads,” Lt. Dave Parker said Sunday.
The shooting early Saturday left Officer Jason Allen with serious injuries, but he is expected to recover.
Allen, 47, remained hospitalized Sunday but was able to talk to family members and investigators, according to Parker. He said the family told him Allen, an eight-year veteran of the force, is “making good progress.”
Allen was sitting in his parked cruiser in a residential neighborhood near downtown, working on an unrelated case, when a dark-colored sedan pulled up next to his vehicle on the driver’s side just before 2 a.m. Saturday.
A passenger fired some rounds, striking Allen as many as five times in his arms and torso, police said. Other bullets were stopped by Allen’s bulletproof vest.
Authorities believe Allen was targeted because he is a police officer. Anchorage patrol officers have generally worked alone for many years.
Allen was in the neighborhood because a resident there, Bob Hickey, had reported what Hickey called a “minor domestic issue.” After taking the initial report, Allen went to his car to get his camera and do some work on the case. Hickey said he expected the officer to return soon, and he began making coffee.
Hickey said he then heard about six rapid-fire shots. He dashed outside and saw the sedan speeding away. The car was an older model, but it looked shiny black with what appeared to be new paint, Hickey said. The windows looked tinted, but Hickey said he could still glimpse two figures in the front.
He wasn’t able to get the plate number or a good look at the occupants.
Allen screamed for help as he reported the attack to a dispatcher. Hickey ran to the cruiser, which had a shattered driver’s side window, and Allen told him to get him help. The car was closer to a neighbor’s house, so Hickey ran there and pounded on the door. He told the neighbor to call 911.
By the time officers arrived, Hickey had opened the driver’s door, and Allen had slid out of the car. Despite being in severe pain, Allen was very aware of what was going on around him, Hickey said.
“This has haunted me since it happened. He came here to help me, and I ended helping him,” Hickey said, his voice breaking. “I hope they catch these guys.”
Parker said the ambush has brought a heightened sense of vulnerability to the public and to the 380-officer force. Police are urging anyone with even the slightest amount of information to come forward. They also are examining video, but are not saying where it came from.
“All of our officers have truly taken this to heart,” Parker said.
Two Anchorage police officers have been killed on duty since 1996.
Officer Justin Wollam died in July 2001 when his patrol car was rammed head-on by a suspected drunken driver speeding on the wrong side of the multilane Glenn Highway. The 19-year-old driver, Robert Esper, and two teenage passengers also were killed.
Officer Dan Seely was shot in the face and killed in October 1996 while responding to a domestic violence call. The shooter, Paul Ely, also shot and wounded his estranged wife and fatally shot his children before killing himself.
The Allen shooting is similar to an Oct. 31 ambush on a parked patrol car in Seattle that left Officer Timothy Brenton dead and another officer wounded. In that case, Christopher Monfort has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder and attempted murder. Authorities allege Monfort also firebombed four police vehicles in October as part of a “one-man war” against law enforcement.
The October attack was the first of three on police officers in Seattle and nearby Pierce County last year that left six officers dead, including four gunned down in late November as they were doing paperwork in a coffee shop near Tacoma.