Man dies while being booked at Anchorage jail

The front doors for the east wing of the Anchorage Correctional Complex (Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)

Update, July 2:

The Department of Corrections says it is not considering the out-of-state death of Alaska serial killer Joshua Wade and the death in the Anchorage jail booking area as in-custody deaths. Here is our updated story.

Original story:

A death at the Anchorage jail Wednesday has brought the state’s prison system to 10 inmate deaths in the first half of this year – the same number it saw in all of 2023.

Anchorage police announced the man’s death in a brief statement Wednesday morning, which did not identify him.

Here’s what police say happened:

Officers responded just after 3:30 a.m. Wednesday to reported vandalism of the Alaska Backpackers Inn and vehicles parked nearby on Eagle Street in downtown Anchorage. The suspect ran into the woods, but officers soon took him into custody. 

Just after officers took the suspect into the booking area at the Anchorage jail, police said he “went into medical distress.” Police said officers began CPR. Then staff with the Department of Corrections took over. Overdose-reversing Narcan was administered. Medics with the fire department also responded “and continued the lifesaving measures,” the police statement said.

“Ultimately the male was declared deceased,” police said. 

RELATED: ‘I think it’s wrong’: Alaska ACLU seeks accountability for state inmate deaths

A police spokeswoman declined to answer questions about the incident, citing an ongoing investigation. Corrections staff were gathering information Wednesday about what happened.

The Department of Corrections’ online records show nine 2024 inmate deaths so far this year. The last death listed was that of serial killer Joshua Wade – who died June 14 at age 44 as he was being held in an Indiana prison, after a deal in which he asked to be transferred to an Outside facility.

RELATED: Republican lawmakers abruptly cancel hearing on Alaska prison deaths over legal concerns

Wednesday’s death brings this year’s total among Alaska inmates to 10, the same number of deaths the state prison system saw during all of 2023. The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska has questioned both DOC’s handling and reporting of inmate deaths, suing the state over James Rider’s death by suicide in 2022. That year, a record 18 people died while in Alaska Department of Corrections custody.

The most recent death also comes at a political turning point for Anchorage police, just a day after Mayor-Elect Suzanne LaFrance announced that Deputy Chief Sean Case will lead the force starting next week. Case will replace Bianca Cross, who was named chief by outgoing Mayor Dave Bronson just before a series of officer-involved shootings this summer.

a portrait of a man outside

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him atcklint@alaskapublic.org.Read more about Chrishere.

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