Two Troopers Wounded In Kotzebue Standoff

Two Alaska State Troopers were shot during a prolonged standoff in Kotzebue on Sunday.  The incident ended when officers approached the vehicle hours after the initial shooting and found the suspect, Arvid Nelson Jr. of Kotzebue, had taken his own life.

The Kotzebue Police Department responded to a call early Sunday morning of Nelson brandishing a weapon at a civilian after his truck had run into a guardrail on Ted Stevens Way, a road just east of town. Trooper spokesperson Beth Ipsen says KPD called on the troopers for help.

Ipsen says both of the injured officers returned fire. One trooper was struck in the lower part of his body.  He was medevaced to Anchorage, where Ipsen says he is in stable condition. It’s unclear how the other trooper was injured – if he was grazed by a bullet or hit by shrapnel – but he began bleeding from the head and was taken to the Kotzebue clinic and shortly released.

The standoff continued when Nelson barricaded himself in his vehicle around noon. The area was cordoned off and the city’s airport was closed to non- emergency traffic. Troopers called in the Southcentral Special Emergency Reaction Team, or SERT. Ipsen says there was contact with Nelson around midday.

Neither KPD nor the Troopers would provide details of the standoff as it progressed into the evening. Ipsen says the SERT team did arrive on the scene, but would not comment on how they were involved. The standoff ended around 6 o’clock Sunday, when troopers and officers approached Nelson’s truck and found him dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Ipsen says troopers with the Alaska Bureau of Investigation are flying to Kotzebue to take over the investigation. Due to both officers returning fire, Ipsen says the names of the troopers injured during the initial shooting are being withheld for 72 hours, as per department policy.

The Kotzebue airport was re-opened to air traffic around 6pm Sunday.

Matthew Smith is a reporter at KNOM in Nome.

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