Troopers: Peaceful end to Seward Highway shots fired incident

A man is in custody after Alaska State Troopers say he fired shots and threatened people with a hammer and gun on the Seward Highway near Portage on Monday morning.

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Troopers identified the suspect as 37-year-old Nathanial R. Smith of Anchorage.

The highway was closed starting a little before 9 a.m. for about two hours from Girdwood south to Mile 75, near the “Welcome to the Kenai Peninsula” sign.

According to troopers, Smith was first reported as a drunk driver a little after 8 a.m., and he eventually wrecked his pickup. Then, troopers said, multiple callers to 911 reported Smith was threatening people on the road with a hammer and a handgun, which he allegedly fired at one point.

Smith allegedly fled into the woods along the highway, near Mile 76. Troopers said Smith became lost and wet, and they guided him out after calling his mobile phone.

According to troopers spokesperson Megan Peters, there were no injuries in either the shots fired incident or when troopers apprehended Smith.

“When you have somebody with a firearm and there’s reports that shots are being fired, there is a concern that public safety is at risk,” Peters said. “Fortunately we were able to end the situation peacefully.”

Less than two weeks earlier, troopers closed the Seward Highway at Beluga Point, a popular Cook inlet viewing spot near Anchorage, for 12 hours due to another man who had fired shots. That man, 36-year-old Kevin Thibodeau, was later found dead.

Following Smith’s apprehension Monday, troopers said he was taken to a hospital for possible treatment for any injuries in the wreck or from exposure to cold. Smith faces charges of assault, weapons misconduct, reckless driving and criminal mischief.

Troopers ask that anyone who witnessed the incident Monday call them at 269-5611 to make a report.

Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at Read more about Casey here

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