Man shot, killed at Midtown Anchorage hotel was a JBER sergeant

Friends, colleagues remember Sgt. Julian Francis
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 6:27 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Sgt. Julian Christopher Francis was an automated logistical specialist with the U.S. Army at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, but on April 9 his life was cut short when he was shot and killed at an Anchorage hotel.

Francis served with the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, according to a release from the Army Alaska. He was from Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and joined the Army in November 2013.

He first trained at Fort Jackson in South Carolina and then at Fort Lee in Virginia, before his first assignment at Fort Wainwright here in Alaska. He completed a basic airborne course at Fort Benning in 2017 and was then assigned to Fort Bragg for three years before reporting to JBER in August 2020.

According to charging documents filed in Anchorage Superior Court, Francis was shot and killed near the swimming pool at the Hyatt House hotel in Midtown Anchorage. First responders found Francis on the floor of the swimming pool room “with a single gunshot wound to the chest,” according to a sworn affidavit. He died on the scene.

Police later arrested a 22-year-old Anchorage man, Brent Avery Smith, in connection with the fatal shooting. He has since been indicted on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder.

People who knew Francis, including Spc. James Vickers, Spc. Timothy Sizemore and Sgt. Christopher Osborn, said he touched the lives of everyone around him.

“He was very energetic, he was very happy,” Vickers said. “He would make everyone laugh, like you could ask anyone. He would constantly just make them laugh with jokes, quips. He always had the quips. You’d say something to him, he would be two seconds with a response.”

Francis’ sense of humor was echoed by other colleagues as well.

“He was a top tier jokester, man. He had all the cracks, all the puns,” Sizemore said. “He was definitely the kind of guy you would go to to have a good time if you ever just wanted to talk, or if you just wanted to have a good laugh. He was definitely always there for everybody.”

His colleagues who were also his friends said Francis had a big personality, making the work environment fun for others.

“It’s amazing to have, you know, a positive atmosphere like that,” Osborn said. “It’s funny, it’s just — everybody comes to work with higher moral and they want to be here. And he was the guy that made that happen.”

But now work life feels that much emptier without Sgt. Francis.

“It’s awful, like the morale is low,” Sizemore said. “Everybody misses him.”

His memory remains with those who knew him, who said they still can’t believe he’s gone.

“My heart started aching, like there was a giant hole in my heart and I just ... couldn’t believe it,” Vickers said. “I was in shock for, not just that day, but a couple days after.”

“I was shocked,” Sizemore said. “Like my heart stopped, because you can’t imagine something like that happening to someone like, that’s that close to you,” Sizemore said. “He’s like a family member to every one of us.”

And just like most families, there was always a competitive one which all his friends agree was Francis. Though he had a lot of bark, but not the bite.

“He’s very competitive,” Osborn said. “So we were talking about going down to Ship’s Creek and having a fishing trip, and he said he could out fish me, and he didn’t catch one fish.”

“He said he could beat me in a game called Mortal Combat 11, and we played about 25 minutes and he continued to lose to me over and over and he would, on the microphone, he would constantly yell at me ‘Oh you’re cheating, oh you’re spamming.’ I was like no sergeant, it’s called a combo,” Vickers said with a laugh.

Francis could be all fun and games, but his friends also said that he had an open ear for anyone who needed it.

“They had a party of people like eating pizza and everything, and Sgt. Francis realized I wasn’t eating and that I wasn’t around everybody, so he came over, and he pretty much talked to me for about an hour and he talked me out of a really dark spot and changed my life really,” Sizemore said. “I literally owe the world to him. I was going down a really bad spot and he literally saved me.”

According to charging documents in the case, the motive behind the shooting was not clear.

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