ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Two Alaska State Troopers were shot Sunday in a remote town north of the Arctic Circle, touching off a near-nine hour standoff that ended with the suspected gunman apparently taking his own life, authorities said.
Law officers in Kotzebue found Arvid Nelson Jr. about 6 p.m. Sunday in his pickup truck, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, State Troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said.
In gunfire that led to the standoff, one of the troopers was seriously wounded and flown to Anchorage, 550 miles southeast. The other was less seriously injured and treated locally.
Ipsen said Nelson was from Kotzebue, which serves as a regional hub for Inupiat Eskimo villages, but no other details about him were released, including his age.
The standoff began around 9 a.m. after troopers responded to a report of shots possibly fired. As troopers approached Nelson's pickup truck, shooting erupted that left the two injured, authorities said.
A Trooper statement shed no light on what prompted Nelson to remain holed up in his truck for the next several hours.
City Attorney Joe Evans witnessed the initial shooting and said the incident began 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.
During the standoff, the Kotzebue airport was shut down to non-emergency traffic because the pickup was near the end of the runway.