Three business owners were indicted by a grand jury Friday after being accused of illegally selling and distributing marijuana.
Two of the arraignments came just before an unusual morning in District Court Friday, when a man ingested medical marijuana in front of a judge, before speaking at an arraignment that was ultimately rescheduled.
Charlene Egbe, better known as Charlo Green, was in court facing multiple felony drug charges related to her business, the Alaska Cannabis Club. She’s charged along with two other business owners, Michael Crites of Absolutely Chronic Delivery Company and Rocky Burns with Discreet Deliveries
Egbe was the only defendant to appear officially in front of a judge. According to a court clerk, the other two indictments had already come in, but the prosecutor said there had been a slight technicality with Egbe’s. She said that would be cleared up within hours.
As the judge pushed back the arraignment, he allowed Jonathan J. Schumacher Jr. in the courtroom to give what he called a victim impact statement.
Schumacher, with an obvious stutter, asked the judge if he could take his medication first, which the judge allowed.
“This here is a mixture of Bacardi 151 and marijuana,” Schumacher said after the hearing. “Before I took this I couldn't get out my name. Now I can have a beautiful conversation, I can take my kid to Chuck E. Cheese, I can be in public. Without this, I'm a prisoner in my own home.”
Schumacher spoke in support of Crites, Burns, and Egbe, saying he knew them all personally.
“They knew the strains, they knew the potency, they were able to point me in the direction of other forms of medication to help me control what's going on. That’s why I refer to them as caretakers, it's point blank and simple to me.”
Burns insists he hasn’t done anything wrong.
“It’s legal to buy and sell marijuana right now. It's under marijuana accessories. If you read the initiative -- and I'd encourage everybody to read the initiative -- a right is about to be taken from you.”
But Marijuana Control Board President Bruce Schulte says Burns is wrong. In a phone interview Friday, he reiterated that the only thing that has changed is that personal use and cultivation are legal.
“The criminal law hasn’t changed,” Schulte added.
Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew also says the sale of marijuana is illegal, and that the charges against Burns, Crites, and Egbe, come after months of investigation.
“Frankly, some of the big critics were people who want to get in to the industry and they call me and they say, you know Mew what's up? We're waiting we want to do this legally, we want to prove to you that we can do this and be responsible about it and you're letting these guys get a jump on it and they're getting rich doing it,” said Mew
The trio will be in front of a Superior Court judge Tuesday, Oct. 18.
The Alaska Nurses Association will hold its first ever recruiting fair Friday evening at Embassy Suites in Anchorage. The association said its goal is to place more personnel in positions as the need for qualified nurses increases across the state.
Andrea Nutty, Conference Coordinator for the association, said they're trying to get ahead of a problem that's only going to grow over the next 10 to 15 years.
"About half of Alaska's nursing work force is nearing retirement age within the next 10 years," Nutty said. "We have about 10,000 nurses in the state who are actively working, so if you think over the next 10 years several thousands of those could potentially retire."
The state has improved over the years in efforts to educate and graduate new nurses, Nutty said.
"There were about 200 new nurses who have graduated within the past 10 months in Alaska and that's far better on track than we have been in previous years," Nutty said.
UAA nursing student Patricia Bushey said it was a challenge getting into the university's competitive nursing program.
"When I graduate, it'll be a full 6 years, but there's a 2 year wait which is really frustrating," Bushey said.
Bushey said, with changes to UAA's application system, she got into the program three semesters earlier than her anticipated date of spring 2016.
"UAA has changed the way you apply for the bachelor's program so you can get in sooner," Bushey said. "It's like the associate program where you apply each and every time whereas in the past you could only apply to the program if you met all the requirements," Bushey said.
Bushey said the shortage for nurses in the field is felt nationally as well as in Alaska.
Barbara Berner, UAA Director for the School of Nursing, said the profession has always experienced some shortages, but in Alaska it's particularly challenging to fill positions in rural areas.
"They tend to be more significant in the rural areas, we have about a 10 percent shortage rate out in rural areas, not so much in the urban areas because we rely on our programs that are putting out sufficient numbers of new nurses," Berner said.
Berner said UAA will graduate a combined total of about 200 new nurses with associate and bachelor's degrees each year.
Particular fields, such as elderly care and specialty nurses will typically see lower numbers, Brener said.
Berner said UAA recently instituted a doctorate nursing program and its first doctorates will be given in Dec. of 2016.
"By 2018 we'll be moving our bachelors to masters, nurse practitioner program to DNP programs so all of our nurse practitioners starting in 2018 will have doctoral degrees, clinical doctorates in nursing," Berner said. "It's important to us because our nurse practitioners are independent providers in the state and they provide primary care all over the state including local and distance areas and they need that high level of education in order to provide the services."
The Alaska Nurses Association recruitment fair kicks off Friday evening from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. inside Embassy Suites.
A federal judge today sentenced former Anchorage teacher's assistant Daniel Alan Brown to 15 years in prison and lifetime supervision for distributing child pornography.
Judge Sharon L. Gleason described the former Huffman Elementary teacher's assistant as someone who is “very self-absorbed “and focused on his own satisfaction, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler’s office. Gleason said to “gain gratification looking at pictures of children being tortured is not the type of thing someone with compassion and empathy would have,” according to the release.
Brown worked with special education students, the Anchorage School District has said.
Authorities arrested Brown, 34, on December 8, 2014, and charged him with two federal felony counts of possessing and distributing child pornography.
Brown started working as a substitute teacher for the Anchorage School District in 2006. Four years later he became a teacher’s aide at Huffman Elementary. After starting with the school district, Brown began collecting images of child pornography online and the started trading them with undercover law enforcement agent in New Zealand. Investigators found more than 40,000 images and video of child pornography on Brown’s computer.
In an interview with KTUU, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Reardon said although Brown took pictures of some of his students at Huffman Elementary, none of those images were pornographic. He did, however, use some of the images as an avatar for file-sharing accounts in which he traded child porn.
Anchorage parents who spoke to the court prior to Brown’s sentencing said although the pictures he took of their children were not pornographic, they were still a violation. One mother said her family’s life “has been irrevocably changed” because of Brown’s actions. Others wrote to the court saying they felt they failed their children because they were unable to protect them from the defendant. They now “question everyone’s motives….don’t relax…and live in a tense world wondering who else wants to bring harm” to their children, according to the press release.
Reardon, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and New Zealand police investigated and prosecuted the case.
Brown had no criminal record prior to his arrest, Reardon said. He’ll be assigned to federal prison in the Lower 48 where he must complete at least 85 percent, or 12 and a-half years, of his sentence before he’ll be eligible for release, said Reardon.
Monday will be the last day on the job for Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew, who has led the state’s largest municipal police force since 2010.
A former security and emergency preparedness director for the school district, Mew served 20 years as a patrol officer, detective, SWAT member and in various roles within the Anchorage Police Department. On Friday he talked about why he's retiring, what faces the city with legalization of marijuana and what comes next in this Q&A.
KTUU: What have the last couple weeks been like for you?
Chief Mew: It’s been surreal, actually. The last couple weeks have been very different. It’s a lot of work trying to quit. It’s amazing how hard it is and how much stuff you’ve got to get done, just to leave this place. On one hand, I’ve been trying to wrap up as many affairs as I can and clean matters up. At the same time, I’ve been trying to helpChris (Tolley)get used to our organization and get briefed on a lot of the issues that I’m not going to be able to finish that are going to continue. He’s entering a new organization, and he’ll do fine at it, but it’s just a lot of history.
And then, emotionally, it’s different. You know a lot of times you’re something, probably, for the very last time. It’s bittersweet. It’s always difficult to leave an organization that you’ve been with for years and years and years.
Q. You definitely worked your way up through the department. How does that feel, thinking about the progression?
A. Well, most of my adult life has been spent here. How do I think about it? It’s part of my -- you spend that long in an organization, the military or this organization, perhaps teachers feel the same way, it becomes part of your identity. So it’s a little unsettling to walk away from that. Looking back at my career, I’ve been blessed to do almost everything that one can do at a police department. Maybe that’s not entirely correct. I mean, I was never a bomb guy. I was never a K9 person. But (I) had lots of different experiences, lots of different chances to do different work around here. The job of a patrol officer is a wonderful job, it’s very exciting, it’s very rewarding. It’s completely different from the job of police of chief. And every job in between is also different. And so it’s a progression. And you get older, and you move through the organization. The job develops with you, and you develop with the job. It’s a life, it’s not just employment.
Q. You said previously that the last mayoral campaign made you think about retirement. Why was that?
The chief of police is an executive. The chief serves at the pleasure of the mayor, whoever that might be. The chief could be removed at any time for no reason, without any recourse. So anyone who wants to be chief knows they’ve got to be ready to move on at a moment’s notice. But typically, you’re with your mayor, and your mayor has chosen you, and you get along with that person, hopefully, and you have some ability to know how secure or insecure you are as you go along the way. But anytime you get to an election, that’s all up in the air. And so what’s quite common after an election is the executive staff gets swapped out. As you move into the election you know -- particularly when the incumbent is not up for reelection -- there’s a pretty good chance, regardless of what happens, you’re going to be needing to move on. You’d be foolish to not start thinking about, “What would I do with myself? Where am I in my life? What comes next?” Because you may be leaving the APD. So that gets you thinking. It’s not just the chief, but all other executives are in the same boat. Everybody is taking stock of their lives and their careers and what might come next, what opportunities are there, what do they want out of life, should the results indicate that new leadership will be desired.
Obviously, in the spring, I started contemplating these matters, and I found something that was a potential for a while, then looked to be a certainty if I was willing to take it. Well, nothing’s a certainty in life, but I mean the opportunity turned into an offer at one point, and I got to the point where I thought that I’m getting older, I can’t be chief forever. This new opportunity is exciting. I decided that maybe I want to do that regardless. I did. At some point I decided I want to do this next thing anyway, whether the mayor was going to change. After that, my thinking was about how to manage the summer transition, how to communicate this to the new leadership, how to see if it met their needs. And I think we’ve worked all that out, I think the timing has worked out well.
I feel bad about leaving the Anchorage Police Department, but I want to be able to leave on my own terms. I want to be able to leave while the job is still good, still rewarding. It’s bittersweet. I’ll feel odd about leaving, I’ll regret it. But on the other hand, I have new adventures ahead of me, and change is happening, and maybe we just need to get as much of that change done and get it over with. You’re going to see a bunch of movement here at the APD. It’ll be disruptive for everybody for a little bit, and it’ll be uncomfortable for everybody for a little bit, but change is good. It’ll open up opportunities, new ideas, fresh blood. The organization’s healthy and we’ll react to that change well, and we’ll grow as a result. I think, overall, it might be a little uncomfortable for all of us for a little bit, but I think we’ll all do just fine.
Q. Did the incoming mayor or anybody from his administration ask you to leave?
No. We had discussions about this job and what the mayor might want. He made his changes. We were told that if we remained after that, we were good after that, at least for the short term, and that was in the final days before the mayor came onboard. And our discussions were starting to center on the activities over the summer and how we’d handle some of those things. But on the mayor’s first day, I made an appointment with him and let him know the decisions that I’d made, and we started discussing how the transition would occur. I think it worked for everybody. But no, I was not asked to leave.
Q. What’s the new job?
A. I’m going to work for Bering Straits Native Corporation. They have a government contract, so I’m a subcontractor to the government, and the job is periodic deployments to Africa, to provide service there and in strife-ridden areas of Africa.
Q. How would you characterize the actual work you’ll be doing?
A. I’m the new guy over at Bering Straits, and I’m not sure how much they want me to talk about their contracts, their business plans and their ambitions and so forth. I’m entering private enterprise, and corporations operate different than governments. I don’t think I’m authorized to go into a lot more detail right now. I mean, it’s not a top secret program or anything like that. It’s just that companies tend to hold their contracts kind of close to the chest.
Q. You’ve been in police work for a long time obviously -- is it private security work?
Q. But you can’t say what it is?
A. As I said, I’m not in a position to talk publicly on the record, for publication, about the details of what we’ll do. It’s to support governments in West Africa that are struggling.
Q. What legacy are you leaving behind for the police department?
A. We made advancements in a couple places that I was happy to be able to do. I wish we had done more with implementing the PERF report (the Police Executive Research Forum report, was a 2010 audit full of recommendations for the Anchorage Police Department). We’re having the study author come back and update that report, and as our department grows under Chief Tolley, I think you’re going to see us get back to that plan and finish that up. We’ve implemented out of that everything we can do without the bodies, so we’re just waiting on that.
Regardless of sort of getting stalled out on that because of the economy, we did make advances on advancing public trust. We had to come off of a particularly tragic set of events that probably drew down our bank account of public trust, a lot. We had a lot of rebuilding to do there. And we’re doing this at a time when policing nationwide is coming under fire. You’ve seen a lot of controversy in a lot of rather large Midwest and East Coast towns, communities fighting their police departments and vice versa. We didn’t want to see any of that happening here. We also see a trend of the Department of Justice seeking consent decrees around the country, in every state, taking control of local law enforcement. We didn’t want to see this community lose control of its police department. We wanted to make sure we stayed ahead of all those curves and did a lot of work in that regard. We’ve rewritten our policies. We’ve had outside entities, such as the Minority Task Force and the ACLU and the university look at our policies and help us look at where we’re going. We’ve hired consultants who work for the Department of Justice monitoring consent decrees and specialize in police policy come in and help us redo our policy, provide the training on the new policies. That’s huge. We’re trying to get ahead of trends and keep this department operating right, on a state-of-the-art way, with respect to policy and training and how we conduct our operations, so we don’t have the Ferguson-type of problems, so that we don’t have a consent decree here.
In the middle of all this, we had a couple of years where our officer-involved shootings went way high for Anchorage, compared to our normal. We usually have one to two a year. We were having five a year two years in a row. We had to get a handle on that. We made some internal changes. I’m not saying the APD was the reason this was happening. But we had to figure out what the new threat was, why certain kinds of events were ending this way, what could we do to change that landscape, what could we do on our end. We retooled a lot there. We changed the policies, we changed the training. We brought the university in, invited them in. They published our shooting history for the last 20 years. They’re updating that report annually. That’s public, you can read all about that. We’re attempting to learn about that from the data and figure out where to go in the future to make sure we can avoid some of these things. We’re collecting use of force data now in a way we never did before, and the way most departments don’t. The university is studying our first year of data there. Those reports are available there. You can see all of these efforts are a two-pronged attempt to keep our department, our community, out of trouble, but also to make available to the community real good insight into what we do, what makes us tick, so they understand us and hopefully trust us better. We spent a lot of time on that. A lot of effort, a lot of thought, a lot of work.
Then there’s Jen (Castro) in our communications section. We retooled all that. … When I came back to the APD in 2010, that I was not interested in social media. There came a point in time when I did a 180 on that. I’d been presented a lot of information, and I got myself into a few situations that convinced me the department needed to take control of its own image, its own brand, its own message. And so we learned a lot about social media. The tools are now available, the video production tools, the social media tools. … We hired Jen, changed the training for the staff in there, hired new staff as others left, and really took a proactive approach to talking with our community through social media and by generating our own content. The idea is to, once again, get the public trust, get the public to understand more of who we are and what we do, give them hard information, like our policies, so they can look at the one they really want. (We) try to show them aspect of who we are that they don’t see through traditional media. There’s a lot of humor out there. There’s a lot of cops. We’re not all the same person. The media tends to show us as two or three people, talking heads in front of the station. We wanted to expose the guys and gals who are out there every day, working in the streets, following their cases, relating the stories that they see, and have the community see us as a whole bunch of different individuals, not just two or three talking heads. We’re working hard on that, and we think we’ve made a lot of ground there, and I think it goes hand-in-hand with some of the other things we’ve discussed recently with staying ahead of trends in law enforcement and keeping ourselves out of trouble with changing public expectations of law enforcement.
Q. Are there things you would’ve done differently?
A. I probably could’ve played my hand a different way, here or there, along the way. No one is perfect. In retrospect, I look back at a situation and say, “Well, I think we could’ve handled that a little bit better, I think. You’re going to ask me what those are, but some of them are not in a place where we can talk about them publicly just yet. But everybody needs to look at themselves and their own performance and try and learn from those things, and I think we’ve done that.
Q. A lot of these big policing ideas take people. Did you ever feel hamstrung by Mayor Dan Sullivan’s administration with police staffing?
A. To a certain extent, you have to play the hand you’re dealt. The hand I got was a poor economy. You’re correct in your suggestion that a lot of what we did was setting the stage for things we couldn’t complete, because we just didn’t have the staffing to do it. But that didn’t stop us from putting those things in place. So if you go back to the PERF report, it tells us what we should do when we reach 30 percent unobligated time and control. Thirty percent unobligated time is not something we snatch out of the air. It’s an industry standard that says when you get to that point, the patrol officer will have enough autonomy, enough time away from the required response to calls for service where they can actually do proactive, meaningful policing. They can do SARA projects, we call them. It’s an acronym for Scan, Assess, Respond and Analyze. Interrupt crime triangles. Do we attack the suspect side? The location side? The victim side of the crime triangle? How do we study a problem, decide what’s the weakest side of the triangle? How do we assemble the partners to attack that one side? All those things are things we’ve taught ourselves how to do, but we don’t have the staffing yet, the unobligated time, to put them into practice. It was frustrating not to be able to do that. It didn’t stop us from understanding those principles and training on them. It didn’t stop us from acquiring the diagnostic crime software to be able to measure success, figure out whether we stopped a crime trend or whether we just moved it on the map a half-mile east. We have all that stuff. Now we’re just waiting for a time when we’ve got the time on the shifts where we can turn those tools on and use them to prevent crime from occuring. Not only solve crime that has occurred, but prevent crime problems. It’s treating the cause, not the symptoms.
Q. Did Mayor Sullivan ever pressure you to back off the downtown bars when fights and shootings around closing time was such a hot topic?
A. The mayor heard a great deal from the downtown bars. The downtown bars wanted an environment more conducive for commerce than enforcement, I think. This was a time period, for instance, when you saw the (Alcoholic Beverage Control) Board get transferred, at the state level, from (the Department of) Public Safety to Commerce. So there was a trend that was both local and statewide to support commerce. So there was a style of policing that the mayor did not favor. And the mayor’s talked about that. I think if you go back and look at some of your own articles you’ll see some of that in there.
Q. What about marijuana legalization?
A. That line of questioning is fascinating, and we could talk for an hour about it. The whole marijuana thing is going to be challenging for the city, particularly for the police department. Whether you favored it or not, it’s going to be a challenge, because there are so many unknowns. As regulations get written, as laws get adopted, we’re going to have to change. The public’s going to be changing, and there are unanswered questions at this point about how many of these things are going to be done. The state laws are not in place, so the city is trying to do the best it can to put its own ordinances in place. Hopefully when the state acts and creates legislation, it’s going to be consistent with what the city’s already done. Otherwise, we’re going to have to go back and change those ordinances. Big decisions have to be made about commercialization in Anchorage, if that’s going to occur, and if so, what that’s going to look like. So it’s a moving landscape. Some of the things that’ll be challenging about that to the police department are, in no particular order, what’s the impact on how we make driving under the influence cases? And I could go on about that for half and hour. But I’ll just leave it at this: It’s going to complicate that a lot. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to make those cases, but how we make them is up the air right now, it a variety of ways.
Another thing is what happens if there’s a change in administration in the federal administration and the Department of Justice adopts a different stance with respect to states that have legalized marijuana. That could be a big problem for banking, for law enforcement, for state revenues that are derived from marijuana. And we’re not in control of that. And I worry for the police department, because we are sworn to uphold all federal, state and local laws and to uphold the Constitution, and right now we’re engaged in something that’s illegal on the federal level. Where does that put our officers? Particularly if the administration changes its view after the next federal election. What does it mean when we have a sliding scale when your police department will enforce and which ones they’ll ignore? Maybe we navigate this marijuana thing with not much trouble, but that’s opening a door that I’m not sure ought to be opened.
Q. Commercial sale has been illegal since the vote to legalize, so why didn’t police bust some businesses earlier that were selling pot openly?
A. Recently we brought three of those organizations, brought indictments against them. We were on those three as soon as we became aware of their activities. The investigation, a lot of the pace at which those things are prosecuted, some of it has to do with how fast we investigate things. In this case, there was some follow-up investigation and perhaps some tracking of funds that took a while to do, and then there were strategic and legal decisions that had to be made in actually getting the cases in front of the court, and those took a while too. The municipality, the state, from police and prosecution, all had to figure out how best to make this work, how to make it work delicately. I mean, during this time there were critics on one hand sayin, “We should leave these people alone? Why are we wasting public resources chasing them down? All this is supposed to be legal.” Of course that’s not correct necessarily. And there were people saying, “Why were you not prosecuting these people? Why are you letting them publicly thumb their nose at the law?” So you’re caught between those two. We try and do what’s right regardless of public opinion, but you also want to pay attention to public opinion. So we tried to shoot up the middle on that. We didn’t want it to look personal. We couldn’t let these folks get away with challenging the law, even though we knew the law was likely going to change in certain ways and make some of this conduct at some point legally doable. We had to walk a pretty fine line there.
Frankly some of the big critics were people who want to get into the industry. They’d call me and say, "Mew, what’s up? We’re waiting. We want to do this legally. We want to prove to you that we can do this and be responsible about it, and you’re letting these guys get a jump on it, and they’re getting rich doing it.” So a lot of these people who were criticizing us for not acting faster were actually pro-marijuana people, so it was kind of an unusual experience. I think there’s going to be a lot of unusual experiences as we move through this event. But I’ll tell you, I think the police department acted right away, and 90 percent of our work was done very early on. It just lagged in terms of you seeing it in the public and getting it into the arena of the courts.
Q. Anything else you want to say to the people of Anchorage?
A. I want to thank them for allowing me to be their chief. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to serve them. I want them to know they’ve got a great police department, and I think that we have a great community here. And I think we’ve got something going here that we can be very proud of. A lot of communities today can’t say that. I think the department’s in good shape, and I wish Chief Tolley the best of luck moving forward. And thanks for a great career.
Alaska State Troopers and State Fire Marshals are investigating a fire that burned a home to the ground early Friday in the Western Alaska village of Tununak.
"A young child is reported to be currently unaccounted for," troopers wrote in a dispatch posted online.
Troopers in Bethel said they were notified of the fire by at around 1:20 a.m. Friday.
A trooper spokeswoman said she had no information beyond the brief online dispatch. Attempts to reach officials at the Native Village of Tununak offices, the village school and at nearby police offices were unsuccessful.
Draconids, Taurids, and Orionids … Oh My!
This October has some excellent opportunities to check out the night sky. Three different meteor showers are occurring. None are quite as stellar as the Perseids in August but still a chance to check out some “shooting stars.”
The Draconids peaked between last night and early this morning but there is still a chance to see them tonight. These are notoriously slow moving meteors so don’t expect an explosion of lights (though that has been known to happen with this meteor shower). Because of their slow speed, they tend to be faint. You could see about 10 meteors an hour. This is one of the few meteor showers where evening viewing is best. Look north toward the Draco constellation. The meteors appear to radiate from the “dragon’s head.” For Alaska, this constellation is high in the sky at this point.
The Taurids is more of a minor, long lasting meteor shower, rarely producing more than five meteors per hour, according to EarthSky. Despite not having many meteors, the Taurids are known for occasional flurries of bright “fireballs”. The Taurids appear to radiate from Taurus constellation (hence the name). The Taurids are visible from about September 10 through November 20. There isn’t really a “peak” for these meteors though two smaller peaks have been predicted for October 9 and 10 (minor) and November 4 and 5 (better viewing chance).
The Orionids will be the next major meteor shower. Though it runs for much of the month, the peak is expected on October 20 and 21 and are best viewed between midnight and dawn. These meteors are the result of debris from Halley’s Comet. Expect between 10 and 20 meteors per hour. The meteors appear to come from the Orion constellation.
As with any star-gazing, the best chance is to get away from city lights/light pollution, give your eyes time to adjust and have patience. Though the meteors appear to “radiate” from certain constellations, it’s not necessary to watch that direction. They will be visible across much of the sky. All of this is, of course, weather dependent.
And if you’re up during the hour just before dawn, check out the moon Saturday and Sunday morning. You’ll see a sliver of the waning moon plus the chance to see Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Mercury aligned in the eastern sky. Mercury is very low on the horizon. You need an unobstructed view of the east. Venus will be the brightest light in the eastern sky followed by Jupiter.
Mau Johnson filmed this sad scene at about 10 a.m. today near Campbell Park.
“The (other moose) was just, like, still trying to revive it,” Johnson said. “I don’t see that every day.”
Multiple moose had been wandering the neighborhood earlier that morning, a common sight as the big animals snack on trees. Johnson returned from an errand to find the smaller moose dead.
A Ford F-150 struck it near Lake Otis Parkway and East 48th Street, according to Anchorage police.
“The moose looked fairly young, possibly 1 to 2 years old,” police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro wrote in an email.
Johnson's cell phone footage begins after the moose had been moved out of the roadway. Police eventually started honking their horns and blared sirens to shoo the remaining moose away.
“I’ve never seen affection like that from them,” Johnson said.
While she assumed the moose were related, perhaps parent and calf, Fish and Game wildlife biologist David Saalfeld said the behavior seen in the video was probably simple mating instinct.
“The one that died was likely a cow that was in estrus, ready to be bred,” Saalfeld said. “ The bull was probably following it, trying to breed with it.”
The state estimates that more than 32 moose have been killed in Anchorage since July 15, mostly by cars, he said.
Castro, the police spokeswoman, said she saw no mention in police records of any citation or injuries to the driver. A local charity picked up the moose, she said.
Convicted killer Ryan Sanders will likely face a new trial, according to Anchorage’s top prosecutor.
“It’s my full expectation that my office will retry Mr. Sanders,” said Anchorage District Attorney Clint Campion. “I’ve already spoken with the homicide unit. A paralegal has started working on locating witnesses.”
Earlier today the Alaska Supreme Court overturned Sanders’ conviction in a 2006 New Year’s Eve double homicide, ruling a key piece of evidence should have been admitted at trial that could have helped exonerate the defendant.
Sanders shot and killed Travis Moore and Ashlee Richards at his Anchorage home after a dispute, according to court records. According to Sanders’ statement to police, Moore hit Sanders in the head with an unloaded Beretta, splitting open the skin over his eye. Sanders then grabbed a nearby revolver and shot at Moore four or five times. Moore collapsed outside the apartment and died.
Sanders said he wasn’t sure whether he hit Moore and so he proceeded to shoot at another person fleeing the home who was wearing a black jacket. Sanders told police he thought that person was Moore, who was also wearing a black jacket that night. But the second victim turned out to be Richards, a teenager. Sanders, now using a Glock semi-automatic handgun, shot her nine times. A tenth bullet grazed her hand. Richards was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Sanders told police he didn’t realize the woman he shot wasn’t Moore until after the gunfire ended, despite obvious physical differences in the two. Richards was an overweight Caucasian woman with hair past her shoulders. Moore was a fit African-American with short-cropped hair, court records say.
Ten days after the shootings, Sanders was indicted on five counts including first-degree and second-degree murder of Moore; first-degree and second-degree murder of Richards; and tampering with physical evidence.
Sanders’ case went to trial in 2010. A jury convicted him of second-degree murder of Moore; first-degree and second-degree murder of Richards, and evidence tampering. He was sentenced to 101 years in prison for both murders.
Sanders’ lawyers appealed, arguing that a phone call to a detective from a friend of Richards should have been admitted as evidence during the trial. The judge excluded it as hearsay.
The friend, 17-year-old Carmela Bacod, phoned Detective Mark Huelskoetter two days after the killings. Bacod said Sanders had stolen money prior to the shootings and that she, Richards, Moore and a couple of others planned to go to Sanders’ apartment and try to get the money back.
On the police recording of the phone call, Bacod said “they wanted to go beat him up to get the money back,” according to court records.
Sanders’ lawyers argued that the phone call was critical to their client’s defense.
The Alaska Supreme Court today agreed, ruling that the trial court should have allowed the phone call to be admitted. The court overturned Sanders’ murder conviction and ordered the case sent back to the trial court.
Sanders’ public defenders did not immediately return phone calls or email requests for comment.
With the convictions thrown out and case remanded to the trial court, Campion expects a hearing to be held within the next couple of weeks. At that time, the district attorney is expected to announce plans for a retrial.
Campion’s office is trying to reach the victims’ families today to let them know what’s happened.
Sanders remains at Goose Creek Correctional Center in Wasilla where he's been housed since August, according to Sherri Daigle, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Corrections. He spent several years at Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward and at the Anchorage jail, she said.
Alaska's Prince William Sound will see more, but smaller icebergs in the next decade.
That's according to a report by a marine safety organization that monitors tankers carrying oil from the trans-Alaska pipeline.
The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council says icebergs from Columbia Glacier are smaller because they have to travel farther before reaching shipping lanes.
The glacier since the late 1980s has receded more than 10 miles. Icebergs lose volume in the water from melting and fracturing.
Icebergs remain a serious hazard. The report says smaller icebergs can more easily float over the glacier's terminal moraine at the head of Columbia Bay.
One tanker, the Overseas Ohio, in 1994 was seriously damaged by an iceberg as it headed north to pick up oil.
Gov. Bill Walker has lobbied members of President Barack Obama's administration on opening up parts of an Alaska refuge to oil drilling.
Walker met with reporters Thursday after returning from Washington, D.C.
Walker told Interior Secretary Sally Jewell his hopes of filling the trans-Alaska pipeline with oil drilled from a small section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He says both Jewell and the president have told him the proposal would be met with a lot of pushback.
The governor acknowledges it will be a challenge, but it was important for him to get his plan on the administration's radar.
He says he might be able to craft a strategy from the pushback he heard. He says he's not ready to give details yet, but does see a path forward.
An entire village on Alaska's western coast is grieving the back-to-back suicides of three young adults —with each subsequent death influenced by the preceding one.
A regional tribal health organization is sending a suicide-response team to Hooper Bay next week in what essentially will be a community debriefing.
But in a region with disproportionately steep rates of suicide, responders already traveled to the Yup'ik Eskimo community of nearly 1,200 this week, saying it's crucial to offer support and keep an eye out for any others who may be vulnerable.
The first death occurred Sept. 24 with the suicide of a 26-year-old man. Alaska State Troopers say the second death occurred Oct. 2 and involved a 24-year-old man who was despondent over his friend's suicide. Two days later, a 20-year-old woman reportedly distraught over the 24-year-old's death died in an apparent suicide.
The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation's board of trustees has picked a former state revenue commissioner as the fund's new CEO, according to an announcement Friday.
Angela Rodell served under Gov. Sean Parnell and, as part of her commissioner duties, sat on the board of trustees. Rodell had previously been deputy commissioner, overseeing the Division of Treasury, the fund's written statement said.
"Rodell had more than 20 years of finance experience in the public and private sector, primarily focused on debt issuance and capital financing plans," the statement says.
Rodell's hiring still depends on the negotiation of her salary and benefits, the fund's statement says.
The fund is an investment of Alaska's oil tax revenue and a percentage of the interest it earns is used to pay eligible Alaskans each year through the Permanent Fund Dividend.
Rodell, who lives in Juneau, will replace former CEO Mike Burns, who retired in June.
Anchorage police are investigating a shooting early Friday near 64th Avenue and C Street that apparently sent one man to a local hospital.
Someone called police a little before 3 a.m. to report two groups of people outside a business arguing, with one man brandishing a handgun, police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said in a written statement. Members of the two groups left in separate vehicles, which witnesses described for a police dispatcher, who sent officers to the scene, Castro said.
Soon after, witnesses calling 911 said they had heard gunshots near West Dimond Boulevard and King Street, and officers found broken glass and spent shell casings at Dimond and Arctic Boulevard, Castro said.
Roughly 20 minutes later, officials at a hospital reported a man had arrived with a gunshot wound, Castro said. The man had been hit in the upper arm and was expected to survive, she said. A vehicle matching the description of one involved in the first reports of the argument was also at the hospital, she said.
In an interview, Castro confirmed that the argument was outside Club Sin Rock. Police are looking into whether the argument started inside the club or elsewhere, she said.
Police think at least one of the vehicles involved had a window shot out, Castro said, but she said investigators were not yet releasing descriptions of the vehicles seen either at 64th and C Street or the vehicle at the hospital.
Investigators often do not release certain details of crimes that only specific people would know, Castro said.
"We want the suspects to tell us that," she said.
As of Friday morning, there had been no charges or arrests made.
Police investigating the shooting ask that any additional witnesses call 786-8900 to share information, or, to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP.
As his short appearance in Kevin McCarthy coverage made the rounds on Twitter, Rep. Don Young issued a short reply on Facebook:
"247 House Republicans in gridlock after a canceled leadership election, someone had to take charge," Young wrote.
"In actual news," he continued, "the House passed my bipartisan legislation -- the Native American Energy Act -- to give Alaska Natives and American Indians a real opportunity to utilize their lands and develop their industries without the heavy hand of the federal government."
RELATED: U.S. House passes Native American Energy Act (APRN)
With just a few seconds of footage, U.S. Rep. Don Young made a splash on social media today as CNN (above) and others showed the longtime Alaska politician barreling through a crowd of officials and reporters.
Related: Kevin McCarthy drops out of House Speaker race (CNN)
Here's how Twitter responded:
Ashley Taborsky had a surprise visit from a hungry family of moose at her home in South Anchorage, around 9:30 pm Wednesday.
The cow moose and two calves dined on bucket of apples that Taborsky says she forgot to bring inside her home.
"I was just hanging out on the couch watching TV and I kept hearing this thunk, thunk, thunk from the porch and the dogs started barking and (I) got a little bit freaked out so I looked out the window and... This is way better than watching TV" said Taborsky
Taborsky blogged about the experience here
A teenager accused of attempted murder and arrested this week in Anchorage had been charged earlier with assault in a separate July case after he allegedly punched a woman in the face, according to court documents.
Police had named Emmanuel Mcalister, 18, as a suspect in a shooting Tuesday on Peterkin Avenue in which bullets struck an apartment building and vehicle but apparently no people. Mcalister was arrested Wednesday and faces felony charges of attempted murder, assault and weapons misconduct.
Mcalister was jailed and set for an initial court appearance Thursday afternoon.
According to separate charges over the summer, Mcalister assaulted a woman July 3 on Grand Larry Street.
The woman said she had been driving on Muldoon Road when Mcalister, driving an orange Jeep at a high rate of speed, cut her off, according to the charging document. Mcalister "flicked her off and followed her to her apartment and almost collided into her vehicle," the charges say.
Witnesses said they saw Mcalister get out of the Jeep, screaming at the woman, then he pushed her and punched her in the face, the charges say.
After several continuances, Mcalister's next hearing on the still-open assault case is set for Monday.
KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Marine Highway System has cut 20 shore positions as officials deal with a scaled back budget.
The Ketchikan Daily News reports (http://bit.ly/1hu1Llv ) that in the past week, 14 people have been laid off in the ferry system, and other vacant positions were also cut.
Alaska Department of Transportation spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says customer service and ferry docking positons were cut at Petersburg, Cordova, Skagway, Haines, Valdez, Whittier, Kodiak and Bellingham terminals. One position was cut from the system's headquarters.
Woodrow says there are no more layoffs planned for fiscal year 2016, but more could come next year. Close to 60 positions were cut this year from DOT. The agency's budget was reduced by 12.5 percent from last year.
Information from: Ketchikan (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.ketchikandailynews.com
The pilot of a small plane that crashed and burned Thursday afternoon near Houston High School has died, emergency services personnel said.
After notifying his next of kin, Alaska State Troopers named the man as 23-year-old Joseph Mielke of Big Lake. A trooper at the crash site said Mielke was flying a Cessna 150.
Someone driving nearby saw the single-engine plane go down on Hawk Lane about 1:40 p.m. and called 911, according to Ken Barkley, deputy director of emergency services for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
The plane was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, Barkley said.
The crash site was a little more than a mile past Houston High on Hawk Lane. Barkley said the road was closed.
The entire front of the plane looked destroyed, with just the tail still intact. It was still smoldering as firefighters sprayed water on it.
“We arrived on scene and there was nothing we could do to help the man," said Glenn Stevens, also with Mat-Su Emergency Services.
Trooper Sgt. Troy Shuey said witnesses saw the Cessna take off nearby and crash moments later. There were friends and family at the crash who helped identify Mielke for the trooper there, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigator was heading to the site, NTSB Alaska Region Chief Clint Johnson said.
Pending further investigation, it was unclear what caused the crash, Johnson said.
Mielke is the 22nd person to die in an Alaska plane crash this year, according to National Transportation Safety Board records. Most recently, three out-of-state visitors died when a DeHavilland Turbine Otter crashed on takeoff near Iliamna.
The reduction of thousands of troops from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage could be delayed pending a lengthy new report on how the Army’s cuts would affect the ability of its Alaska-based force to protect the country.
Now awaiting presidential approval, the defense authorization bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday includes an amendment by Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan that would require what’s called an Operation Plan, or OPLAN. The plan would need to describe the military’s strategy -- including the manpower and equipment necessary -- to defend national security in the Arctic region, Sullivan said in a written statement.
The Department of Defense announced the planned Alaska troop reductions, part of an Army-wide effort, in July. Alaska political officials said cuts to the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, known as the 4-25, included losing about 2,600 soldiers from JBER in Anchorage and 75 from Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks.
Alaska officials have lamented the economic impact to Anchorage if the cuts go forward. But if President Barack Obama signs the National Defense Authorization Act into law, the reductions could be put on hold.
In a written statement, Sen. Sullivan, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, pointed to Russia’s military activity in the Arctic as a reason to maintain troop levels in Alaska.
“While Russia’s increasingly aggressive actions in Western Europe make headlines, their moves in the Far East and Arctic ... have not gone unnoticed by the U.S. military in my state,” Sullivan said in a written statement. “The United States is an Arctic nation because of Alaska and my amendment ensures that the U.S. will have a comprehensive and proactive Arctic strategy to project positive American influence into the region.”
It’s a fascinating time to be an Alaska fish biologist, charter operator or angler. With warmer ocean temperatures caused by El Nino and a phenomenon called "The Blob," bizarre fish sightings are pouring in from around the state, particularly Southeast.
Scott Meyer, a state fishery biologist based in Homer, is amassing photos from colleagues and boat captains who have hauled in everything from a 900-pound ocean sunfish near Juneau to warm-water thresher sharks off the coast of Yakutat since July.
“It’s unusual to have these fish caught in near-shore fisheries,” Meyer said.
The warm-water mass nicknamed The Blob has been swirling around the Pacific Ocean for the past couple of years and moving north toward Alaska. At the same time, El Nino is in full force this year, a weather pattern characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures. As a result, ocean conditions including temperatures and food sources for fish are changing and species not normally found in state waters are showing up.
The peak of the 2015-2016 El Nino is approaching, with this year's event among the strongest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Blob has raised temperatures in the North Pacific to record highs of about five to seven degrees Fahrenheit above average, according to NOAA.
Joe Orsi, a federal fisheries biologist in Juneau, said two massive sunfish swam into researchers’ gear in Southeast this summer as they conducted juvenile salmon surveys. Sunfish tend to favor warmer waters than those found in Alaska.
Other unusual reports include Pacific bonito caught in waters off Ketchikan, albacore tuna spotted near Prince of Wales Island, and yellow tail caught near Sitka.
As recently as last Saturday, an ocean sunfish washed ashore outside a lodge in Cordova.
Steve Moffitt, the state biologist who dissected the sunfish, said pilots and fishermen have reported several sightings of sunfish this summer. They were likely chasing the warmer currents and a huge mass of jellyfish that filled the waters around Cordova, he said.
“Sunfish really like to eat jellyfish,” Moffitt said.
California market squid are also starting to spawn in Southeast, Orsi said.
While the usual fish sightings are interesting from a biological perspective, they may be a cause for concern, Orsi said. One of his top questions: if ocean temperatures rise, how will big-money fish like salmon be affected?
RELATED: Research cruise investigates Bering Sea warm spell (KDLG)
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game forecast the Southeast pink salmon harvest in 2015 at 58 million fish, yet fishermen hauled in only about 34 million pinks, according to state records.
Did The Blob and El Nino cause the low catch level? Hard to say definitively but it’s “certainly easy to point the finger at them,” said Dave Harris, Fish and Game’s commercial fishery management biologist in Juneau.
“Those are the most likely suspects,” Harris said.