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AFD Chief Chris Bushue To Step Down

The Anchorage Fire Department is set to see its third chief in about two years, with Chris Bushue planning to step down and take a position as a battalion chief. According to a Thursday statement from Mayor Dan Sullivan’s office, Bushue will be replaced by former AFD chief John Fullenwider, who became head of the department in 2001. Fullenwider will return from his 2006 retirement to take on the job again when Bushue steps down. “Chief Bushue has been an incredible asset and administrator for over 25 years,” Sullivan said in the statement. “I'm confident that he will continue to serve the department well, and I thank him for his service to Anchorage.” Last month, Bushue played a key role in organizing a Downtown memorial service for AFD Senior Capt. Jeff Bayless, who collapsed during an Airport Heights training exercise and died at Alaska Regional Hospital. Bushue began his time with AFD as a paramedic intern in 1981 and ascended to AFD’s top position in April 2012, after Chief Mark Hall also requested a demotion to battalion chief. Hall had come under fire from AFD and APD unions over an October 2010 incident in which he got into a verbal altercation with a police officer. Sullivan says Bushue’s position change and Fullenwider’s takeover as chief will be effective May 12.

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DOC Reports Third April Inmate-on-Inmate Assault

Alaska State Troopers are investigating the Monday assault of a man at the Goose Creek Correctional Center, the second inmate-on-inmate assault on the same day and the third reported at state correctional facilities this month. In a brief statement on the incident, Alaska Department of Corrections spokesperson Kaci Schroeder says the incident occurred at about 10 p.m. Monday. The hospitalized victim, 52-year-old Ralph Hernandez, was previously held at the Anchorage Jail, also known as the Anchorage Correctional Complex. “Mr. Hernandez was originally remanded on (Sept. 24, 2011), and has been at (ACC) and Goose Creek,” Schroeder wrote. “He was moved from ACC to Goose Creek on (March 30).” Schroeder declined further comment on the case by phone Wednesday afternoon, deferring questions to Alaska State Troopers in line with standard DOC policy on correctional-facility assaults. Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters confirms that Hernandez’s assault is under investigation, but says the investigating trooper is off-duty Wednesday with no other details immediately available. Hernandez, an unsentenced inmate, is being held in connection with a 2011 case in which he allegedly tried to sexually abuse his former girlfriend's daughter. Police say Hernandez had sought sex with the girl, then 14, offering to get back together with the ex if she would give the girl a sleeping pill he had supplied and let him have sex with her. According to Anchorage Police Department investigators, the girl’s mother instead reported the case to police, prompting an investigation of earlier incidents involving Hernandez dating back to July 2011. Hernandez was ultimately held on two counts of sexual abuse of a minor, as well as one count of attempted sexual abuse of a minor. Monday’s assault at Goose Creek follows two at the Anchorage Jail, including a case the same day with a Tuesday AST dispatch says saw three inmates assault a male inmate. Peters says no weapons and only minor injuries were involved in that incident, with charges referred to the district attorney’s office but further information on the case still pending.

Earlier this month, troopers also investigated an April 11 case at the jail which left a male inmate seriously injured. Troopers say the victim was treated at a local hospital and then returned to the facility. Last week, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the state has a duty to protect inmates under its custody from injury at the hands of other inmates. Richard Mattox said he had warned DOC officials of dangerous inmates before he was seriously injured by one in 2007, but DOC said he hadn’t proven that he warned of a specific threat -- a bar the five-member court rejected as too high to stop Mattox’s lawsuit against the state.

Editor's note: An initial version of this story inaccurately reported that Hernandez had allegedly sought sex with his daughter, not his ex-girlfriend's daughter.

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Kotzebue Man Charged with Animal Cruelty for Shooting Dogs

A Kotzebue man is behind bars and faces a felony animal cruelty charge after State Troopers say he killed four sled dogs while drunk.

Alaska State Troopers say 42-year-old Carl Henry Jr. showed up drunk at a family member’s cabin about 23 miles east of Kotzebue around 7:30 on the night on April 9.

The family member got in a fight with Henry, who Troopers say then left the cabin.

That family member then went out to feed a lot of sled dogs, only to find blood on the ground and four dogs missing.

To view the complete story on, click here.

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Committee to Vote on Revised Education Bill

A joint House of Representatives and Senate committee unveiled a new version of Governor Sean Parnell's education bill Wednesday. The panel is scheduled to finalize the bill Thursday and send it to the full legislature for approval.

The revised bill puts funding back into the per-student funding formula known as the Base Student Allocation.  The BSA would increase by $150 from $5,680 to 5,830 effective July 1st 2014.

It would increase by another $50 in 2015, and $50 again in 2016.

The committee also added $150 million outside the BSA that will be distributed among school districts statewide.

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Skagway Ferry Dock Sinks

The floating dock used by the state ferry system in Skagway sank overnight.

The Alaska Marine Highway Service says in a Thursday release that the Skagway Ferry Terminal will be closed until further notice since the dock used by state ferries is inoperable. The sinking is under investigation.

Officials say they do not know what caused the dock to sink.

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No Harmful Bacteria in Shots Given to UAF Students

The University of Alaska Fairbanks says nothing harmful was found in a solution that was injected into students in the medical assistant program who practiced by giving themselves shots.

The university hired a toxicology lab to analyze the solution known as Demo-Dose. The lab found three strains of bacteria but none are known to cause disease in health people.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner  reports an investigation began in March after students complained of pain and skin irritation.

About 30 students received the solution, which is not approved for human injections. The university says the assistant professor who told students to practice with the product has been placed on leave and her contract will not be renewed.

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City, Chugach Seek CIRI Fire Island Wind Energy

A project generating wind energy on Fire Island off Anchorage is now generating increased popularity.

Chugach Electric purchased all of the power generated by Cook Inlet Region Inc.’s wind turbine farm on the island, which started producing wind power in 2012.

If Chugach wants to purchase additional power, however, it may have some new competition -- such as the city of Anchorage, thanks to an Assembly resolution passed Tuesday night directing Municipal Light and Power to enter negotiations with CIRI.

“It’s a good deal for the city,” said Assembly member Bill Starr. “We don’t have to up-front any money or anything like that -- and quite frankly we get some property taxes, some good jobs out of it, and they buy a lot of material locally.”

So far, ML&P has declined to buy power from the wind farm because its cost was higher than generating electricity by burning natural gas.

“Once the wind-generation people can be cost-effective we’re anxious to talk to them,” said Jim Trent, ML&P’s general manager. “Any time we can get additional power, our philosophy is to be pro-renewable energy any time we can.”

Currently, the deal between CIRI and Chugach Electric adds about $1 to an average Chugach customer’s monthly bill. Chugach pays CIRI $97 for each megawatt-hour of wind power, versus $65 for each megawatt-hour generated with gas.

According to Suzanne Gibson, CIRI’s senior director of energy development at, the second phase of the project would create cheaper power, costing roughly $63 a megawatt-hour.

“Part of the advantage of building a second Phase 2 is that we can bring it in at a lower cost, because we already put infrastructure on Fire Island that we won’t have to rebuild to set a second phase,” Gibson said.

Gibson says she looks forward to starting discussions with ML&P, as well as Chugach, the Matanuska Electric Association and the Golden Valley Electric Association.

“The price of power of Phase 2 is so compelling that we felt that we need to go talk to the other utilities and see if anyone else would be interested,” Gibson said.

In its first phase, wind power on Fire Island produced about 80,000 megawatt-hours of energy -- or 6,000 residential households on an annual basis.

CIRI has already begun production on doubling Fire Island’s current 11 wind turbines to 22.

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KABATA Vote Fails in State House

Lawmakers in the state House have failed to pass the Senate version of a bill funding the first phase of the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority’s proposed bridge.

In a vote at about 9 p.m. Wednesday, 20 representatives voted to concur with the Senate bill, but 18 voted against it -- causing the measure to fail, with a majority of 21 House votes necessary for passage. Two House members, Reps. Lora Reinbold (R-Wasilla) and Rep. Bob Lynn (R-Anchorage), were excused from the vote.

House Speaker Mike Chenault named three lawmakers -- Reps. Alan Austerman (R-Kodiak), Bill Stoltze (R-Chugiak) and Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage) -- to a conference committee, intended to work out differences in the bill with the Senate.

Despite the Senate’s passage of the KABATA funding package earlier this month, lawmakers have questioned moves this year to transition the project from a public-private partnership to a state-funded project backed by federal grants and infrastructure loans.

Channel 2’s Adam Pinsker contributed information to this story.

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Three August Ballot Initiatives Pushed To November

Three contentious ballot initiatives won't appear before Alaska voters in Aug. 19 primary ballots. Instead, they'll appear in the Nov. 4 general election, since the Legislature failed to wrap up business more than 120 days before the primaries.

The initiatives include an efforts to legalize marijuana, increase Alaska's minimum wage, and an initiative that would require legislative approval for large-scale mines in the Bristol Bay region. Supporters and opponents of each initiative now have nearly three extra months to make their case to voters.

Taylor Bickford, a spokesperson for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Alaska, says he does not expect the delay to affect the outcome of the initiative.

"Having more time to spread that message and educate voters about the benefits of moving this industry out of the underground market ultimately should be a good thing for the campaign," Bickford said.

However, opponents will also be getting more time to make their case. A Vote No on 2 Campaign spokesperson Kristina Woolston says the delay gives Alaskans more time to learn the details of the initiative, which includes a definition of marijuana that opponents say is too broad.

"We think the more time the better to help Alaskans understand what we're voting on," Woolston said. "We don't need to rush in to this decision, there's a lot yet to be learned."

Assistant professor Forrest Nabors, with the University of Alaska Anchorage's political science department, says the ballot initiatives now slated for November are hot-button issues to younger, more progressive voters.

"These ballot initiatives could very well bring young voters out to the ballot box on Election Day -- and if so, that will help Democrats," Nabors said.

The delay could also help Democratic Sen. Mark Begich -- facing GOP challengers Lt. Gov Mead Treadwell, former state attorney general Dan Sullivan and Fairbanks lawyer Joe Miller -- keep his job.

Nabors says a bigger factor in that race is what Miller does if he loses the August primary. If he runs as an independent in November, that could determine whether Begich gets re-elected -- and whether Democrats retain their Senate majority.

"It's politics," Nabors said. "You never can predict what's going to happen."

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No Tsunami Threat from 6.7 Quake off British Columbia

The U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center says a magnitude 6.7 quake has been recorded in the Pacific Ocean off the northwest corner of British Columbia's Vancouver Island. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, says there is no danger of a tsunami from the Wednesday night quake. The quake hit at 8:10 p.m. local time and was centered about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Port Alice, British Columbia, and about 280 miles (450 kilometers) northwest of Seattle, Washington.  It occurred at a depth of 14 miles (22 kilometers). Within a half hour, nearly 200 people had logged on to the USGS earthquake information site to report having felt the quake. Port Hardy resident Jennifer Nickerson says the quake caused lights to sway and the fish tank in the hotel where she works to rock.

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Huggins: Tentative Agreement on Education Plan

State Senate President Charlie Huggins says a tentative agreement has been reached on an education package. A conference committee was scheduled to meet Wednesday evening to discuss the details. The Senate's chief negotiator, Kevin Meyer, said Wednesday afternoon the House had made a "respectful offer" that he hoped to sell to his caucus. Word about the tentative agreement surfaced after the caucus broke around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Much of the day was marked by delayed meetings and floor sessions, while majority caucuses met and talks continued between the Senate and House's chief negotiators, Meyer and Republican Rep. Mike Hawker. Failure to reach agreement on an education package by the scheduled end of session Sunday sent lawmakers into overtime. Wednesday marked Day 93 of what was scheduled to be a 90-day session.

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Prosecution Rests In James Wells Murder Trial

The trial against James Wells is now into week four and Wednesday was the final day of witness testimony.

Wells is charged with killing Coast Guard Electrician's Mate First Class James Hopkins and retired Chief Boatswain's Mate Richard Belisle on the morning of April 12, 2012.

The defense has argued that Wells wasn't at the scene of the crime -- Coast Guard Communications Station Kodiak, where he worked with the dead men. Wells' attorneys say he spent nearly 25 minutes in a bathroom on the day in question, before returning home to fix a flat tire on his pickup truck.

The prosecution has presented expert testimony it says shows the truck's tire was punctured by a nail that had been inserted manually, likely with a nail gun.

On a day when the prosecution called a dozen rebuttal witnesses to the stand, Wells' bathroom visit was called into question.

Two employees of Servant Air at the time of the murders testified that no one had used the bathroom in their building, where Wells claimed he stopped on the morning in question.

Also taking the stand was a longtime friend of the defendant's wife, Nancy Wells. Kodiak resident Judy Pletnikoff said after the murders, Wells asked her if the FBI had contacted her.

When she said yes, she says Wells told her, "I told you not to talk to them. I told you to slam down the phone."

Wells did not take the stand in his own defense. With the prosecution resting its case the question of Wells' guilt is closer to being in the hands of the jury.

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APD Seeks 2 Men After Sunday Downtown Assault

Anchorage police are seeking two men on arrest warrants in connection with a Downtown assault early Sunday which left a man in critical condition. APD spokesperson Jennifer Castro says in a Wednesday statement that Devarrio Garvin, 22, faces a charge of second-degree assault while 23-year-old Trevon Allridge is charged with first-degree hindering prosecution. Both are believed to be involved with the assault, which police responded to on the 700 block of West 4th Avenue just after 2:30 a.m. “When police arrived they discovered a male lying on the ground with severe injuries and he was transported to a local hospital,” Castro wrote. “It was reported to police by medical staff that the male suffered severe head trauma and he remains hospitalized.” As of Wednesday afternoon, Castro says the victim remains in critical condition. At this point, APD investigators don’t believe a weapon was employed in the assault. “It was just purely a physical altercation, from what I understand,” Castro said. Castro declined to answer further questions, including whether the suspect was deliberately or accidentally struck, citing the continuing investigation. Anyone with information on Garvin or Allridge’s whereabouts, as well as the assault itself, is asked to call APD at 786-8900 or Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP.

Editor's note: APD has corrected an initial press release that gave Trevon Allridge's last name as Aldridge.

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Oscar-Nominated ?Icebound? Director Dies

An Oscar-nominated filmmaker who directed and produced a documentary detailing a 1925 sled dog run in Alaska to deliver life-saving serum has died. Daniel Anker died Monday at age 50. His wife, Donna Santman, says her husband died of pneumonia, a complication of his lymphoma. Anker's film, "Icebound," details the five-day run to Nome following a deadly diphtheria breakout. The film opened the Anchorage International Film Festival in December. Santman says her husband most recently was working on a documentary about late director Sidney Lumet. Anker was nominated for an Academy Award in 2001 for another documentary, "Scottsboro: An American Tragedy." The New York filmmaker is survived by his wife of 12 years and their two children. A funeral is scheduled for Thursday at the Plaza Jewish Community Chapel in Manhattan.

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Juneau Coaching for Coaches Focuses on Sexual Assault

About 50 coaches, representing nearly every region of Alaska, converged on Juneau Tuesday to talk about domestic violence.

The Juneau Empire reports the coaches were in the capital for an all-day training conference entitled "Coaching Boys Into Men."

The intent of the national program is to get coaches to talk to their teams about domestic violence and sexual assault.

The program teaches young men respect for women and healthy relationships.

It started in 2001 in California, and the program was first implemented in Juneau four years ago by John Blasco, the Thunder Mountain boys basketball coach. He says his players now are more conscientious about words they use and how they act.

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Downtown Project Developer Works to Help Stores Hurt by Construction

Typically renovation projects are intended to have a positive effect on business and appearance but some downtown store owners say they're experiencing the opposite.

"It's just unappealing to walk past," says the owner of Sevigny Studio, Katie Sevigny. 

Renovation of the Legislative Information Office is a massive project that has required eastbound traffic on 1 block of 4th avenue to be blocked off to make room for a crane and construction materials.

"Obviously we have to have a certain footprint to do our work," said Mark Pfeffer, president of Pfeffer Development. "But to the extent that we can modify that footprint we have been." 

Pfeffer says he is working with the downtown partnership and local businesses to come up with solutions to keep business running as usual during the project. Work is expected to be complete by the end of December but the road is expected to reopen sooner, sometime in September. 

Sevigny says relief needs to come soon because her store and others rely heavily on tourists who stay in nearby hotels.

"It does concern me that the people coming into the town don't know how to navigate the streets and they don't know that we're here," said Sevigny. 

Pfeffer says in collaboration with The Downtown Partnership and local store owners it has proposed to add signage around the construction site with an arrow pointing travelers towards to stores on the other side.  There are also plans to give hotels an informative handout with store descriptions and a map.

"They have been proactive about coming down here and talking to us," said Sevigny. "Words are one thing but action is another and that is what we're hoping to see."

Not all businesses are upset with the renovation project. At Alaska Ivory Exchange employee Milly Lazich says she's made good friends with the construction crews that are next door neighbors.

"We visit, we exchange smiles and laughter, you know clean the sidewalk together," said Lazich. "They've been very, very nice. In fact they're good company."

An employee at M.A.'s hot dog stand says they've seen more business from the construction workers coming by for lunch. 

The signage and hotel handouts are expected soon according to Amy Slinker with Pfeffer Development, but no exact date has been set.

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UAA Professor Arrested on Charges of Sexually Abusing Minor

A University of Alaska Anchorage term professor has been arrested and charged with sexual abuse of a minor.

Anchorage Police Department arrested 48-year-old Steven Pyle on three counts of sexual abuse of a minor. Police officials say there may be additional victims who have also been abused by Pyle.

Pyle, a foster parent, works in the School of Allied Health at UAA, teaching medical laboratory technology, according to UAA spokesperson Kristin DeSmith.

This is a developing story. Check back with for more news as it develops.

Reporter Blake Essig contributed to this report.

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Anchorage Police Investigate Death, Few Details Available

Anchorage Police are releasing little information about an investigation into a death at a local hospital last night.

The male was pronounced dead Tuesday night after being transported to the hospital early Saturday morning. Police did not specify whether the deceased was an adult or juvenile.

Police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro says that it's unclear how the male died, and that police are looking into any criminal wrongdoing.

According to a statement on the department's website, more information will be released to the public when more facts are available and when doing so will not interfere with the ongoing investigation.

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JBER Soldier Faces Hearing in Killings of Iraqi Boys

A U.S. soldier accused of deliberately killing two unarmed teenage boys as they herded cattle in Iraq seven years ago is due in military court. Sgt. 1st Class Michael Barbera has been charged with premeditated murder and faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted. He is set for a preliminary hearing Wednesday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. The Army has released few details about the allegations against him. The March 2007 killings were documented in a 2012 investigation by Pittsburgh newspaper The Tribune-Review, which said soldiers who served with Barbera had reported the slayings and remained troubled that he hadn't been prosecuted. It isn't clear if Barbera has a civilian lawyer in addition to military defense attorneys. Barbera was most recently stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

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Chopper Hoists Boater in Deflated Raft from Cook Inlet

Three rescue agencies were involved in rescuing a man aboard a sinking raft in Cook Inlet off Kincaid Park Tuesday night, with a helicopter crew deploying a rescue swimmer and hoisting the man to safety. According to a statement from U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings Tuesday night, the man was first reported by Alaska State Troopers to be in distress shortly after 7 p.m., between Kincaid Park and Fire Island.

AST spokesperson Beth Ipsen says troopers began searching for the 44-year-old Anchorage man at about 6:20 p.m., after receiving a report that he wanted to die. Ipsen says his name is being withheld due to the suicide attempt.

"He was basically saying he was going to jump in the water and wanted to die," Ipsen said.

Coast Guard watchstanders then alerted Alaska Air National Guard crews, which diverted an HC-130 search plane and an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crew with 212th Rescue Squadron Alaska Air National Guard pararescuemen from a nearby training mission. A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk from Air Station Kodiak was also dispatched to respond, until the Air Guard crews arrived.

"The Pave Hawk crew hoisted the pararescueman and the boater aboard and flew him to Providence (Alaska Medical Center) for further evaluation," Honings wrote. "They were met by Alaska State Troopers at the hospital."

While Ipsen couldn't confirm whether the man left the raft or deliberately damaged it, she did say he was treated for hypothermia after being rescued. "This was a complex case that was only successful because of the close coordination with our partners in the Air Force and Alaska State Troopers,” Lt. Matthew Mitchell, a Coast Guard Sector Anchorage search and rescue mission controller, said in the statement. “We frequently work with our search and rescue partners throughout the state to respond to distress cases as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Channel 2's Joshua Staab contributed information to this story.

Editor's note: An initial Coast Guard press release stating that the rafter was pushed ashore by a rescue helicopter's rotor wash has since been corrected by the Coast Guard.



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