Troopers close down Seward Highway for reports of man firing shots

Update 4:30 p.m.:

Alaska State Troopers have arrested a man who allegedly fired shots near the Seward Highway at Girdwood on Monday.

At 8 a.m., troopers received a Report Every Dangerous Driver Immediately report of an erratic driver in a pickup truck near Portage on the Seward Highway, according to an online trooper dispatch.

“It was reported that the pick-up had wrecked at more than one location along the highway, south of Girdwood,” the dispatch states.

About 10 minutes later, at approximately 8:09 a.m., 911 calls started coming in about a man with a handgun and a hammer threatening people along the highway, according to the dispatch. In response, troopers closed the Seward Highway to traffic in both directions. Patrol troopers and the Alaska State Troopers’ Special Emergency Response Team responded, said AST Public Information Officer Megan Peters in an email.

The man, who troopers identified in the mid-afternoon dispatch as 37-year-old Nathaniel R. Smith of Anchorage, wrecked his pickup at mile 76 of the Seward Highway and took off on foot into the woods. Special Emergency Response Team personnel from both Soldotna and Palmer responded for the search, along with the patrol troopers, Alaska Wildlife Troopers and officers from the Anchorage Police and the Whittier Police departments, according to the dispatch.

“AST eventually made contact with Smith by calling his mobile phone,” the dispatch states. “Smith had become lost and wet after fleeing into the woods. Troopers were able to guide him back to the highway.”

Once Smith returned to the highway, troopers arrested him and charged him with four counts of assault in the third degree, misconduct involving weapons in the fourth degree, criminal mischief in the fourth degree and reckless driving. Troopers took him to an Anchorage hospital to be evaluated because he had wrecked his car and been exposed to cold temperatures, according to the dispatch. Afterward, the troopers planned to take him to the Anchorage Jail.

Travelers headed to and from Anchorage were held up most of the morning to allow troopers to investigate. As of 2 p.m., the highway had reopened to traffic. Northbound travelers were being stopped at the “Welcome to the Kenai Peninsula” sign at approximately mile 75 of the highway, and southbound travelers were being stopped at the Girdwood cutoff. 

No injuries were reported, according to a special advisory issued by the Alaska State Troopers. Investigation was turned over to the Alaska Bureau of Investigation. 

Update 1 p.m.:

Alaska State Troopers have arrested a man who allegedly fired shots near the Seward Highway at Girdwood on Monday.

The highway has reopened to traffic after several hours of being closed to allow troopers to search for a man who reportedly fired several shots near the highway. Troopers closed the highway to southbound traffic at the Girdwood cutoff and to northbound traffic at the “Welcome to the Kenai Peninsula” sign at approximately Mile 75 of the highway. Patrol troopers and AST’s Special Emergency Response Team responded to the incident.

Original story:

Travelers headed to and from Anchorage will be held up at Girdwood for the next several hours as Alaska State Troopers investigate reports of a man with a gun firing shots.

Troopers received reports of a man with a gun Monday morning and closed the Seward Highway. Patrol troopers are on scene and the Alaska State Troopers’ Special Emergency Response Team is responding, said AST Public Information Officer Megan Peters in an email.

“The man has fired off shots,” she said.

Northbound travelers are being stopped at the “Welcome to the Kenai Peninsula” sign at approximately mile 75 of the highway, and southbound travelers are being stopped at the Girdwood cutoff.

This is a developing story that will be updated as more information becomes available.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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