Woman disputes APD account of fatal officer-involved shooting

Published: Mar. 29, 2018 at 10:24 PM AKDT
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At the time of publication, this investigation remained open. Police are asking that anyone with information who hasn't yet spoken with police please call non-emergency dispatch at 311.

As the family of Zander Clark struggles to figure out what happened on March 24, the day the 20-year-old was fatally shot by police, Clark's grandmother came forward with a plea: If you know something, say something.

"It just hurts," said Katherine Engell, Clark's grandmother. "Right now, we have to go through the process of bringing him home to lay him to rest. We have to go through the process of being there for one another.

"He was a brother," she said. "He was a son, grandson. Basically, he is a person just like each and every one of us."

Clark died the evening of Saturday, March 24, following a domestic dispute near the Mountain View Home Depot store. Someone had called police referencing a stabbing, in which Clark had allegedly attacked a woman he was with following some sort of disagreement. Police said the woman ran into the store and survived those injuries, but Clark fled on foot toward the Penland Park mobile home neighborhood. An officer chased after him, APD said.

According to an APD release disseminated via Nixle shortly after the incident, "After entering the trailer park the suspect turned around, with knife in hand, and ran straight towards the officer. The officer fired; the suspect was declared deceased at the scene."

APD Chief Justin Doll also said during a press conference on the evening of the shooting that preliminary reports showed Clark had been on the offensive when he was shot by police.

"One of our officers gave chase," Doll said, reiterating the Nixle message, "chased [Clark] into the Penland Park neighborhood. At that point, the person who was being chased turned, ran towards the officer while armed with a knife, and the officer shot and killed them."

Doll noted that, with the shooting having happened only a few hours earlier, the results weren't yet final. "Obviously, it's early in the investigation," he said. "Things could change as we go on."

Clark had four different cases against him on record in Anchorage - one of which had been reopened - at the time of his death. One case was for failure to appear; the others ranged from a misdemeanor to Assault in the Fourth Degree, most commonly associated with recklessly causing injury to another person. All four had been recorded since Sept. of 2017.

However, circumstances of the fatal shooting are being called into question by a woman who is disputing the Anchorage Police Dept.'s account of events.

"I seen [sic] a cop chasing someone," said the woman, a resident of Penland Park who requested that her identity not be disclosed. "He was pointing his gun at this victim's back, and he really gave no time to get on the ground after he said, 'Get on the ground now!'"

When asked if Clark was running toward the police officer, the woman responded: "He was running one direction."

“He was running away from the cop,” she added.

On Thursday, police wouldn't comment on the specifics of the case or respond to the statements made by the woman claiming to be a witness since the investigation remains open. However, APD sent a statement asking for anyone with information to please come forward.

"Any loss of life is a tragedy," wrote Renee Oistad of the Anchorage Police Dept. "This remains an open investigation. Should there be anyone else who has information regarding this event, who [has] not yet spoken with police, we ask that they call non-emergency Dispatch at 311."

Per policy, Oistad continued, the Office of Special Prosecutions is currently reviewing the officer's use of force. Once that review has been completed, APD's Office of Professional Responsibility will review the officer's actions to confirm whether or not there was any violation of policy.