Police pursue tips as wounded officer heals

The chance of a full recovery "looks very good" for the Anchorage police officer who was shot as many as five times over the weekend, a police spokesman said Sunday as detectives chased leads on his attackers.

No arrests have been made in what police are calling an ambush on 47-year-old Officer Jason Allen on Saturday in Fairview.

Police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker said Allen's wife "said he was still in quite a bit of pain, but he's able to respond and talk to people and talk to his family."

A dark-colored sedan pulled up alongside Allen's patrol car just before 2 a.m. on Medfra Street, between 14th and 15th avenues, according to police. A man opened fire with what appeared to be a handgun, police say.

Allen's bulletproof vest stopped at least some of the shots, Parker said.

Detectives worked on the case in shifts on Saturday, interviewing witnesses and canvassing the neighborhood. On Sunday, homicide and robbery and assault investigators were following leads and looking for additional tips -- no matter how small -- from the public, Parker said.

They're asking anyone with information about the shooting to call 786-8900 or 561-7867.

Police are putting extra effort into finding the attacker or attackers given the brazen nature of the shooting, Parker said. "He's bold enough to shoot a police officer, who he knows is armed, in ambush.

"Who knows what they're capable of?"

Allen was about three hours into his shift at the time of the shooting, Parker said. The officer had spent roughly 45 minutes at a nearby home on an unrelated call, according to a neighbor. Police don't believe the shooting was connected to anything that happened earlier in the shift, Parker said.

The surprise attack on Allen follows a string of police officers killed in western Washington since Oct. 31.

Five Anchorage Police Department employees had recently attended a funeral for some of the slain officers and were briefed on how the Washington cases were solved, Parker said.

At a Saturday news conference, Lt. Dave Koch said video evidence played a role in solving the Halloween attack, noting police are also reviewing video related to the Fairview shooting. Police have declined to say where the footage comes from.

Authorities suspect the Washington state shootings on Oct. 31 and Nov. 29 were each committed by single gunmen. The first, Christopher Monfort, is facing murder and attempted-murder charges and has been accused by prosecutors of waging a "one-man war" against police, according to The Associated Press.

The other, Maurice Clemmons, is dead. A Seattle police officer shot him two days after Clemmons gunned down four Lakewood officers in a coffee shop.

Koch said Allen appeared to be targeted because he was a police officer.

After the shooting, Medfra Street residents wondered if the attack was somehow gang-related.

"That will be something that will certainly be part of the investigation, but we don't know yet," Parker said.

Sharon Chamard is the Fairview Community Council president and an associate professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center. When she's not teaching classes to aspiring police officers and lawyers, she sometimes drives the neighborhood as part of the local community patrol.

While Chamard used to say Anchorage didn't have a gang problem, she's not so sure about that now.

Still, she said she hasn't seen signs of gang activity in Fairview, where Medfra is one of the main arteries for pedestrians and cars.

"I think of Fairview as generally quite a safe neighborhood," Chamard said.

Sgt. Denny Allen, no relation, supervises the Community Action Policing Team, which has been working with community leaders to try to improve Spenard and Fairview. "We're going to be really hitting the street and see if we can dig up some leads on this," he said.

He's baffled by the motive, which could be anything from a copycat shooter to gang activity to retribution, Allen said.

He's known Officer Allen for years.

"You couldn't ask for a better guy. He was very, very fair with people. That's why I think he was a target of opportunity," Sgt. Allen said.