APD: gun used to shoot officer linked to five summer murders

UPDATE: 3:00 p.m.

by Josh Edge

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Anchorage Police Department Chief Chris Tolley addresses the media at the department's West Anchorage training facility. (Photo by Josh Edge/Alaska Public Media)
Anchorage Police Department Chief Chris Tolley addresses the media at the department’s West Anchorage training facility. (Photo by Josh Edge/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Police Department on Tuesday identified the two officers and suspect involved in a fatal weekend shooting, and police said the gun used by the suspect in Saturday’s shooting has now been linked to five Anchorage murders.

APD identified the suspect in Saturday morning’s shooting as 40-year-old James Dale Ritchie.

Lt. John McKinnon, commander of the department’s homicide and robbery-assault section, said the Colt Python .357 Ritchie used has been linked to five other Anchorage homicides this summer, from early July through late August:

“The two victims at Post Road, the one victim at Bolin Street, and two from the Valley of the Moon Park,” McKinnon said.

Jason Netter and Brianna Foisy were killed July 3 on Post Road; Treyveonkindell Thompson was killed July 29 on Bolin Street; Bryant De Husson and Kevin Turner were killed Aug. 28 in Valley of the Moon Park.

McKinnon said detectives met with the victims’ families Tuesday morning to relay the new information.

APD Police Chief Chris Tolley identified the officers involved in Saturday’s shooting, beginning with injured officer Arn Salao, a five-year veteran of the department:

“He immediately returned gunfire and physically fought off his assailant,” Tolley said. “At the same time, as this is occurring, as second officer who’s in the area rolled up on the incident, and Sgt. Marc Patzke of our K9 Unit charged and returned fire. And together they were able to stop this individual.”

Ritchie was killed in the gun battle.

During the attack, Chief Tolley said Officer Salao was shot at least four times in the lower part of his body.

“Even though he was hit in the lower part of the body and entered into the body in the lower extremes, the gun… the bullets traveled and went up into the middle of his body, fracturing bones ripping apart muscle, ripping through his intestines and even lodging in the liver,” Tolley said.

Despite the seriousness of the injuries, Chief Tolley, said after two surgeries Officer Salao’s condition is now listed as stable.

“I’m happy to tell you despite some infections setting in over the weekend, we think we’re past that and the officer actually got up, he’s been moved out of ICU, and the officer been up and begun to try to take some steps,” Tolley said.

And after visiting the wounded officer Tuesday in the hospital, Chief Tolley said Officer Salao plans on taking even more steps.

Saturday’s incident began when Officer Salao made contact with James Ritchie while investigating a report a theft, stemming from a man who refused to pay his cab fare. But, Lieutenant McKinnon said Ritchie was not that man.

“I know that Mr. Ritchie was in the area during the event, and so we would contact people as if they were witnesses, if they saw anybody, ‘Hey, did you see someone matching this description?’ And so he is not the person that was involved in the cab theft,” McKinnon said.

And McKinnon said Ritchie’s motive for opening fire is not immediately clear.

“We are not sure what the suspect was thinking or what was going through his thoughts,” McKinnon said. “All we do know is that he immediately goes at the officer and produces a handgun and shoots at him multiple times.”

McKinnon said APD will not release video citing its graphic nature as well as an effort to preserve evidence in ongoing cases.

As part of its ongoing investigation, McKinnon said the case – along with the five murders associated with the weapon – remains open.

McKinnon said investigators will continue to look into Ritchie’s past, including other places he may have lived, to find if there are any other cases to which he may be linked.


Original Post:

Anchorage Police said the gun used to “ambush” and shoot one of its officers early Saturday has now been linked to five area murders — committed from early July through late August.

Mugshot of 40-year-old James Dale Ritchie. Ritchie was posthumously identified as the shooter in a police "ambush" on Nov. 12, 2016 (Photo courtesy of Anchorage Police Department)
Photo of 40-year-old James Dale Ritchie. Ritchie was identified as the shooter in a police “ambush” on Nov. 12, 2016. He was shot and killed by APD officers. (Photo courtesy of Anchorage Police Department)

On Tuesday at a press conference at its West Anchorage training facility, APD identified James Dale Ritchie, 40, as the man who was shot and killed by police after shooting officer Arn Salao multiple times in what APD chief Christopher Tolley called “an ambush.”

Salao, a five-year veteran of the force, underwent two surgeries for at least four gun shot wounds and is at an Anchorage hospital. Tolley said the officer is improving and has been moved out of ICU. APD said Salao and another responding officer, Sgt. Marc Patzke, returned fire after Ritchie opened fire on Salao.

After investigating the incident, APD said it had linked the gun Ritchie used to shoot officer Salao, a Colt Python .357, to five murders committed throughout Anchorage this summer.

In a press release APD said those murders are:

  • July 3, 2016: Jason Netter and Brianna Foisy were shot and killed near a bike path off North Post Road.  Based on forensic findings, police believe the gun used was a Colt Python .357. Ballistics test results now match that gun with the one found at Saturday’s shooting scene.
  • July 29, 2016: Treyveonkindell Thompson was found shot to death near the 300 block of Bolin Street.  The state crime lab determined the gun used to kill Thompson was the same one used in the July 3 murders of Netter and Foisy.
  • August 28, 2016: Bryant De Husson and Kevin Turner were found shot to death on a bike trail near Valley of the Moon Park in midtown Anchorage. Again, ballistics matched the slugs taken from the victims to the two other murder scenes and to the gun used by Ritchie on Saturday.

Saturday Shooting

APD said Officer Salao contacted Ritchie around 4:30 a.m. Saturday, on reports of a man who had walked away without paying for a cab ride. APD said Ritchie refused to stop for Salao. When the officer pulled his squad car over to the the side of the road, near the corner of Fifth and C streets, APD said Ritchie suddenly opened fire.

APD said Salao exited his vehicle as he and another officer, Sgt. Marc Patzke, returned fire — causing Ritchie to fall on top of Salao. Police said Ritchie continued fighting until he was subdued. APD said officers tried to administer life-saving first aid to Ritchie, but he died on the scene.

APD is asking the public for help in getting more information about Ritchie.

Anyone with information is being asked to call APD at 786-8900, or go to anchoragecrimestoppers.com.

Note: A previous version of this story said that Officer Salao was a three-year veteran of the Anchorage Police Department. He is a five-year veteran. 



Josh is the Statewide Morning News Reporter/Producer for Alaska Public Media | jedge (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8455 | About Josh

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