ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Two Alaska State Troopers were shot in a remote town north of the Arctic Circle Sunday morning and a standoff with an armed suspect continued into early evening, authorities said.
One of the troopers was wounded seriously and was flown to Anchorage from the town of Kotzebue, which serves as a regional hub for Inupiat Eskimo villages, Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said.
City Attorney Joe Evans witnessed the shooting and said the incident began at about 9:15 a.m. as he was having breakfast with police Chief Craig Moates.
Moates took a call that there may have been shots fired from a man in a pickup truck toward a police officer in a patrol car and Evans accompanied the chief to where the pickup had crashed into a guardrail.
By that time, Evans said, three patrol cars had arrived carrying two Kotzebue police officers and the two state troopers. Evans and the chief observed from 75 to 100 yards away, expecting a quick resolution.
"When I arrived, I thought nothing else was going to happen," Evans said.
With a Kotzebue officer driving a patrol car, at least two officers on foot approached the pickup. The officers on foot were shielded by the open front doors of the patrol car. Evans said there may have been two officers walking on the driver's side plus one on the passenger side.
The patrol car drove about 1 mph, he said, and when it was about 15 yards from the pickup, shots rang out. A trooper behind the driver's side door crumpled to the ground.
The other officers came to his assistance and placed the wounded man in the car. The patrol car backed up with the wounded man inside.
At least one officer returned fire but it's unknown whether the suspect was struck, Ipsen said.
The others officers gathered near the chief's car, Evans said. The second trooper said his head hurt, Evans said, and when he took off his cap, he noticed he was bleeding.
"There was a track across his head," Evans said.
The trooper had suffered either a graze from a bullet or possibly, shrapnel from a piece of a bullet off a ricochet, Evans said. The trooper at first declined treatment but then drove to the clinic. He also escorted Evans from the scene.
The suspect remained holed up in his pickup truck late Sunday afternoon as local authorities awaited the arrival of a trooper tactical team from Anchorage, about 550 miles southeast. Officers weren't sure of the identity of the person in the pickup.
The Kotzebue airport was shut down to non-emergency traffic because the pickup was near the end of the runway, Ipsen said.
Evans said police have shown a lot of patience with the man in the truck.
"I think in a bigger city, it would have been over a couple of hours ago," he said.