A burst of gunfire exploded in the early-morning darkness of a densely populated East Anchorage neighborhood Wednesday, leaving two men dead in a pickup truck in the street and sending police on a hunt for the gunman and his getaway driver.
Witnesses say they heard a series of shots in quick succession just after 4 a.m. in the neighborhood that is almost all apartment buildings and condominiums. On the street, stopped in front of a Dumpster in the 1600 block of Russian Jack Drive, a black 2006 Honda pickup was idling, the two victims dead in the driver and passenger seats.
Police late Wednesday identified the dead men as Christon Shannon Lee, 19, of Anchorage, who was the driver of the vehicle, and Matthew Nick Peterson, 19, of Wasilla. Police said the two apparently did not live in the neighborhood, and the police don't know what they were doing there.
Both men have lengthy criminal histories, according to court records. Peterson has been arrested for robbery and burglary, Lee for weapons offenses and vehicle theft.
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The gunshots that killed them woke the neighborhood. "I saw the gunman standing next to the truck, about to start running away from the truck, a gun in his hand," a witness said. The shooter looked to be in his late teens or early 20s and stood beside the driver's side window holding a rifle.
Someone else was driving the getaway car, which was only about 10 feet from the truck but already pulling away.
"The car was backing up, out of the scene, and the guy was running towards it," said the witness, who checked on his wife and grabbed his own gun for safety.
"Crazy morning," he said.
Earlier Wednesday, two other witnesses said they didn't recognize the truck. A man who said he stood outside smoking a cigarette minutes before the shooting said he didn't see anything strange but heard two shots soon after going back inside. Then someone fired as many as 10 more rounds, he said.
By Wednesday night, police had released few details on the case. They said they didn't have any suspects.
At the scene Wednesday afternoon, two panels of a wooden fence casing the trash bin just behind the vehicle were pockmarked with 15 bullet holes, each wearing a yellow evidence tag as police processed the scene later in the day.
Dozens of yellow evidence markers surrounded the Honda truck. An alarm beeped, signaling the key was still in the ignition, while police snapped photos through the open driver's side door.
The two victims, bloodied from the apparent gunshot wounds, remained inside as a tow truck arrived to remove the pickup. They were still inside when the tow truck drove off. It is not uncommon for police to haul vehicles with slaying victims still inside to garages, where detectives can take time to methodically examine both victim and vehicle, said Sgt. Slawomir Markiewicz, supervisor of the homicide unit.
The shooter opened fire at close range to the victims, but police wouldn't say if they thought that meant the assailant knew the men or if it was an ambush, or both.
Police say they're hearing conflicting descriptions of the possible shooter.
The get-away vehicle was described as an older-model Chrysler or Dodge-style four-door sedan with a sport back end, police spokeswoman Marlene Lammers said. The truck was registered to a woman who lists a South Anchorage address. Lammers said she didn't know if either of the victims lived in the neighborhood.
Markiewicz said detectives were still trying to determine what happened and why. The motive for the shootings was still under investigation, as was whether there was an exchange of gunfire or if the shooting was one-sided, he said.
"We're still working on following up the leads, processing the vehicle, so just routine work now trying to gather all the witnesses," Markiewicz said.
By midafternoon, a few police officers remained on scene along with the major crime unit van, parked alongside the fence where the shooting took place. The street was blocked by yellow crime scene tape, and tire tracks and footprints on the snow and ice were each marked with a yellow evidence tag and circled in fluorescent green spray paint. Officials were taking photos and digging out the snow around the trash bin, then raking through it for evidence.
The double homicide brought the number of slayings so far in Anchorage this year to four.