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Troopers arrest Fairbanks police officer on assault charges following incident over the summer

Published: Nov. 27, 2021 at 3:37 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska State Troopers have arrested a Fairbanks Police Department detective on assault charges following an incident in Salcha that took place over the summer.

Gerrit Butler, 36, was arrested by troopers on Friday, according to a press release from the Fairbanks police.

Charges were brought against Butler following an incident at Harding Lake in Salcha on July 5. According to the press release, Butler was charged with two counts of second-degree domestic violence assault and one count of fourth-degree domestic violence assault.

According to a trooper dispatch posted on Saturday, Butler was not arrested on July 5 while the Office of Special Prosecution and Appeals collaborated with troopers on the investigation.

According to charging documents for Butler, both he and 30-year-old Aaron Vogel were at Harding Lake in Salcha with a group of others when troopers received three separate phone calls reporting a domestic violence disturbance at 2:33 a.m. The first two phone calls were made by Butler, who initially identified himself as a detective with Fairbanks police to the 911 dispatcher. Butler said that Vogel needed medical assistance, but failed to indicate that he had injured Vogel, according to the charging documents filed in Butler’s case. The third 911 call was made by Vogel.

Vogel was taken to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and later charged with four separate counts of assault, and taken to Fairbanks Correctional Center where he was originally interviewed by troopers. A day later, Vogel was interviewed a second time by a different trooper and requested further forensic examination.

Charging documents for Vogel include different descriptions of events than the charging documents filed once Butler was arrested over four months later. Butler was the first person interviewed by troopers upon arrival and, according to an affidavit, told troopers that Vogel had made repeated attempts to start altercations, refused requests to go to bed and later refused requests to leave the cabin. Butler told troopers that once Vogel had pushed another person, he then struck Vogel no more than five times.

“Aaron claimed Gerrit apologized for going too far and made statements about losing his job,” the charging documents for Butler stated. “Aaron said he went to a neighbor’s house to use the phone. Aaron stated he was diagnosed with a fractured orbital bone, had broken teeth, had to have a laceration under his eye glued shut, had facial bruising and swelling, and had lacerations and abrasions on his body.”

Vogel told troopers that he was attacked by Butler from behind and struck dozens of times and that Butler put his hands around Vogel’s neck. According to Butler’s charging documents, he has been employed by the Fairbanks Police Department for six years.

Troopers reported that Butler repeatedly denied putting his hands or any other body part around Vogel’s neck. Charging documents for Butler include a that a forensic nurse reported that injuries to Vogel’s neck could have been caused by a strangulation event, which was also attested to by the trooper who conducted the follow up interviews.

Vogel claimed that the altercation lasted longer than a minute, while Butler said the duration was no more than 10 seconds. During a Nov. 4 follow up interview with Vogel, troopers wrote that his eye was noticeably droopy and that his teeth remained broken. Statements given by other guests at the cabin during follow up interviews were inconsistent with the statements they provided the night of the incident, according to the affidavit.

Vogel reportedly told troopers the night of the incident that he had tried to leave the cabin and walk away, but that Butler had struck him and “jumped on him.” Butler, however, reportedly told troopers that he had gotten off Vogel and that Vogel had apologized and thanked Butler.

According to the charging documents for Butler, he indicated throughout the interview that he “did what he thought he had to do.”

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