Fairbanks Police release dashcam footage of deadly high-speed pursuit
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Fairbanks police on Wednesday released new information on a dangerous high-speed pursuit on the Mitchell Expressway earlier this year that ended when police officers and Alaska State Troopers fatally shot the suspect, 23-year-old Shawn Christopher Buck.
Dramatic dashcam footage of the Memorial Day incident shows the moments leading up to the shooting, as Buck’s white pickup comes to a stop after crashing into an occupied police vehicle on a highway on-ramp. Officers surrounded the vehicle and opened fire after Buck threatened them with a handgun, according to FPD.
Buck was rushed to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries.
Speaking with reporters Wednesday, Fairbanks Deputy Police Chief Brad Johnson said the trouble started earlier that afternoon, when Alaska State Troopers were investigating “a stolen vehicle and stolen property case.” While they were working, the troopers saw Buck approaching the scene in his vehicle.
According to police, Buck was known to have three active, no-bail felony arrest warrants at the time, as well as prior convictions for riot, vehicle theft, false report and unlawful evasion. Troopers conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle, but Johnson said Buck refused to comply and drove away from the scene, beginning the pursuit.
A short time later, a witness reported seeing Buck fire a handgun at the pursuing trooper. The chase continued onto the Richardson Highway, where Buck accelerated to speeds over 100 mph, drove into oncoming traffic and traveled the wrong way down the on-ramp to the Old Richardson Highway.
At one point, he pointed a handgun at a trooper and almost t-boned another motorist while running a stop sign, Johnson said.
“At this time of day, vehicle traffic was busy with people leaving for Memorial Day weekend,” Johnson said. “This was further compounded the closer Buck got into the city of Fairbanks with much more traffic and innocent lives at stake.”
At this point, Fairbanks police responded to assist troopers and an FPD officer set up spike strips ahead of the pursuit near the Badger Road overpass. As Buck flew over the spike strips he fired a shot at the officer, who had taken cover behind a jersey barrier and was unharmed.
“After hitting the spikes, Buck continued northbound on the Richardson Highway despite all four tires being deflated,” Johnson said. “Although this slowed the vehicle down, Buck continued his refusal to stop as he drove the vehicle on its rims, sliding and fishtailing onto the exit ramp to the Mitchell Expressway.”
After avoiding another roadblock, and driving the wrong way down another on-ramp, Buck repeatedly rammed into several police vehicles while trying to avoid getting boxed in, Johnson said. After a head-on collision with an FPD vehicle, officers approached Buck’s vehicle on foot and fired at him several times after seeing the gun in his hand.
The officers that opened fire have been identified as FPD Chief Eric Jewkes, Sergeant Ron Dupee, Officer Dennis Benn and Officer Tyler Larimer.
“At the time the officers fired their weapons they all believed that they or their fellow officers were about to be killed or gravely injured by Buck,” Johnson said. “Not only had Buck repeatedly used the truck as a weapon, but he had also used his handgun to fire at them during the pursuit.”
In a letter to AST Colonel Hans Brinke, Assistant Attorney General June Stein said the Office of Special Prosecutions had cleared all four officers of any wrongdoing.
“I have concluded that the officers were legally justified in using deadly force under the circumstances. Criminal charges are inappropriate,” Stein wrote in the letter.