A 38-year-old Juneau man is in serious but stable condition in a Seattle hospital after being shot by a Juneau Police Department officer Saturday morning.
According to JPD’s account of events, two officers responded to a reported car crash Out the Road about 4 a.m. Saturday. Officers found the accident in the 16500 block of Oceanview Drive about 4:19 a.m.
The vehicle was a gray Jeep Cherokee that had fled from police about 1 a.m. that morning.
When police investigated the accident, they found the driver had barricaded himself inside the vehicle.
According to JPD’s account of events, “Within one minute, officers requested medical assistance for the driver who had been shot one time by one of the officers.”
Police say multiple shots were fired but did not have an exact count as of Saturday.
“I do not know,” JPD chief Bryce Johnson said. “There were not a whole bunch … it was a small number.”
At a 3 p.m. Saturday press conference, Johnson said the department will not release the victim’s name because he has not been charged with a crime, but Johnson did confirm that the person was unarmed.
“We’re unaware of any weapons at the scene,” Johnson said.
The Jeep was lodged in a ditch, and it was not immediately clear whether the vehicle could have presented a danger to officers.
Alaska law allows officers to use deadly force if a person “may otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.”
Earlier that evening, an officer had attempted to pull over the Cherokee at the intersection of Egan Drive and Mendenhall Loop Road. That vehicle failed to stop, and the officer declined to pursue.
“Vehicle pursuits are incredibly dangerous,” Johnson said. “People die in vehicle pursuits … we’re not going to chase someone just over a failure to yield.”
About 3:55 a.m., JPD’s dispatch center received a report from a woman reporting her husband had been a passenger in a car accident. When officers arrived, they found that passenger and a driver. Alcohol was involved in the accident.
Johnson said the vehicle’s driver “was known to the officer who was arriving” and “had made threats in the past to harm police officers.”
Of the responding officers, one was the shift duty sergeant, and the other was an “experienced” police officer. JPD has added several new officers in recent months.
JPD will not name the officer who shot the driver until at least Monday, the department said in a notice earlier Saturday.
The driver was taken by ambulance to Bartlett Regional Hospital and then to Seattle by medevac flight for further treatment. At 2:30 p.m. Saturday, according to JPD, the man was in serious but stable condition.
Under JPD policy, the officers involved in the shooting have been put on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated.
The department has contacted the local district attorney, it said in a prepared statement, as well as the Alaska Bureau of Investigation for assistance with the case.
Under state procedures, the Alaska Department of Law’s Office of Special Prosecutions will investigate the incident as well.
Oceanview Drive remained blocked to traffic throughout the day Saturday as the investigation progressed. Johnson said officers were expected to remain on the scene through the evening in an attempt to determine exactly what happened.
“I anticipate them being on scene, continuing to investigate late into the night today,” he said.
JPD does not have body cameras on its officers, though the officers do carry audio recording devices and their police vehicles are equipped with cameras.
Officer-involved shootings are extraordinarily rare in Juneau. The last was in 2007, when a JPD officer shot and killed 40-year-old Randall Clevenger near Thunder Mountain Trailer Park when Clevenger advanced on officers with a raised samurai sword. That shooting was the first in 11 years to involve Juneau police.
“These are just some of the most tragic events,” Johnson said. “They’re tragic to all involved.”