Authorities say officers' use of deadly force 'justified' in 2016 shooting of Robert Musser
The six police officers’ action in the shooting death of Robert Musser in 2016 are being ruled as justified by the Office of Special Prosecutions. However, the report is not specific in naming which of the six officers fatally wounded Musser.
“At least one officer reported that he could see Mr. Musser reloading in the window,” the report states. “Several shots from APD SWAT hit the area where Mr. Musser was located.”
The report, which was sent in a letter addressed to Anchorage Chief of Police Chris Tolley in December, goes on to say that the state’s medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Musser’s body “determined that Mr. Musser had been struck multiple times by gunfire – at least once to the head and once to the torso. The cause of death was determined to be the multiple gunshot wounds.”
Captain Sean Case with APD said that of these multiple gunshot wounds, "We do not think that any of them were self-inflicted."
The officers who were determined to have fired their weapons at that time, and who were “pulled from the scene while the stand-off continued” following the shooting incident, include Robert Wurst, Steven Childers, Matthew Barth, Daniel Henegar, Jason Penman, and Seth McMillan.
Case said that, due to the high volume of shots, it was "almost impossible to determine" which specific officer's bullets struck Musser.
In the letter, the Attorney General said that “given the circumstances surrounding the shooting, we have determined that the involved officers were legally justified in their respective decisions to use deadly force against Mr. Musser.” It goes on to say that no criminal charges would be filed against any officers involved in the shooting.
when Musser reportedly fired three rounds at tree cutters who were performing maintenance on a power line easement near his home. Police at the time said he was unreachable by phone, and they set up a perimeter that remained during the stand off incident. Officials say the tree service workers were “severely frightened” by the event, and prompted the police intervention.
The report continues to describe the events that eventually would lead to Musser’s death, including the deployment of tear gas canisters in an attempt to smoke Musser out, as well as a tense moment where Musser reportedly fired shots at police. Jahna Lindemuth, the attorney general who sent the letter to APD, said it was when police fired back that Musser was shot and killed.
The report included details that were not previously shared regarding Musser’s behavior during the standoff. It specifies that during the situation, Musser leaned out of a second story window, “showing his middle finger in response to attempts by law enforcement to communicate with him.” It also said he was “pantomiming shooting a gun at officers.”
After that, police say Musser shot at police. Officer Butler was injured in the face with bullet fragments, the report said. They returned fire as a result of Musser “being verbally aggressive towards law enforcement, pantomiming a weapon shooting at APD SWAT, and finally, shooting at Ofc. Butler and the officers near the armored vehicle.”
Anchorage Police Chief Chris Tolley would later call the death of Musser a "heartbreaking" resolution to the encounter. In the report made by Lindemuth, she states that “although the events of this incident are tragic, each of the involved officers […] were legally justified in using deadly force.”