An Anchorage police officer was shot multiple times early Saturday morning in gunfire sprayed from a passing vehicle as he sat in his patrol car on a Fairview residential street.
Police said Officer Jason Allen, who was seriously injured and underwent surgery Saturday, was in the neighborhood for an unrelated family disturbance call. He'd returned to his car when a sedan pulled alongside him on Medfra Street between 14th and 15th avenues.
The attackers opened fire without a word, police said.
"Firing from surprise, from concealment. It's an ambush. ... I don't think it was at random at all," said Lt. Dave Koch, who is overseeing the investigation. "He was shot because he was a police officer."
No arrests had been made as of Saturday night.
At an afternoon press conference Mayor Dan Sullivan vowed to catch the shooters.
"The people who did this: We don't know who they are yet, but we'll find them," Sullivan said. "They're going to be caught, they're going to be brought to justice."
Bullets struck the policeman's arms and torso, according to police. Allen, who is 47, was "talking and doing quite well after surgery," Lt. Dave Parker, a police spokesman, said late Saturday night.
OFFICER STAYED AWAKE AND ON RADIO
Residents in the area of the shooting described Medfra as a normally safe slice of Fairview. They said they heard as many as seven gunshots at about 2 a.m.
Allen had responded a short time earlier to a call involving a family dispute. Koch said there appears to be no connection between the attack and that initial call, which came from 55-year-old Bob Hickey, who says he's lived in the neighborhood for 20 years,.
Hickey said in an interview he wanted help with a family problem, which he declined to detail, and called police at about 11:30 p.m. Friday. Allen came to his house around 1 a.m., he said.
The pair talked for less than an hour and Allen walked back to his car to finish some reports, Hickey said.
Hickey started a pot of coffee, expecting the policeman to return in a few minutes, he said. He soon heard six shots out in the street, he said.
A car had pulled up next to Allen's, stopped and fired, Koch said. "No warning. No altercation. No contact between the people. No anything."
Hickey said he opened his door and "I seen his black sedan go by pretty rapidly and I was hearing the police officer yelling for help."
Police described the car leaving the scene as a late-1980s to mid-1990s model, dark-colored, four-door sedan, possibly a Chevrolet.
There was more than one person inside, but it's unclear exactly how many, Koch said. The gunshots may have come from the rear, passenger side of the vehicle.
The sedan sped south on Medfra, then turned west on 15th, police said.
Hickey said he hurried to the patrol car, which was parked on the side of the road, facing 15th.
The driver's side window had been shattered, bullet holes pierced the door and Allen appeared to have lost the use of his left arm, he said. "I says, 'Is there anything I can do for you? Can I help you real fast?'
"He says, 'I just need help.' "
Hickey raced to the door of neighbor Ben Hussey, who called 911, the neighbors said.
Hussey said he was on the phone maybe 30 seconds when a patrol car arrived. Allen himself had remained on the radio, describing the assailants' vehicle and saying he needed help, according to police.
"The officer was conscious. He was able to speak. He called the entire incident in on the radio," Koch said. "The officer remained conscious at the hospital. The officer was very severely injured, but the officer fought and remained conscious, providing information."
At some point, Hickey had opened the driver's side door of the patrol car, he said.
"I went to go help him out," Hickey said. "He slid his body out. He was aware, he was very aware of what was going on around him, but he was in severe, very severe pain."
At the corner, neighbor Jamey Bachmann woke to the shots. An Army veteran, he knew the sound of gunfire and looked out the window, he said.
Bachmann heard the officer who had just arrived hollering to Allen: "Are you all right? Are you all right?"
POLICE USUALLY PATROL ALONE
As of Saturday afternoon, doctors hadn't told police exactly how many times Allen was shot, Koch said. "The best number that I've been told is five."
The officer, who joined the department more than 8 years ago, was working alone Saturday.
Police say officers generally go on patrol without a partner unless they're training -- a practice Sullivan said has been in place for decades.
"I don't think one incident in particular changes your mode of operation, but it's the kind of thing that we'll talk about with the chief and his staff," Sullivan said when asked if police should work with partners.
Meantime, detectives are studying physical evidence from the scene, conducting interviews, calling informants and reviewing video evidence, police said. It was unclear where the video evidence was recorded.
Some -- but not all -- police cars are equipped with cameras.
Parker said the incident was very similar to an Oct. 31 ambush on a parked patrol car in Seattle in which Officer Timothy Brenton was killed and another officer wounded. Christopher Monfort has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder and attempted murder in that case.
That attack was the first of three on police officers in Seattle and nearby Pierce County last year that left six officers dead, including four gunned down Nov. 28 as they were doing paperwork in a coffee shop near Tacoma.
Until the assailant in Saturday's Anchorage shooting is caught there is no way to determine whether it was a copy of the Washington attacks, Parker said.
"But it's sure interesting that we've had so many recently," he said.
Police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to call 786-8900 or 561-7867.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Call Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.