Murder in the valley

From outside Trailer C16, a light grey single trailer with dark blue trim on C Street in Kodzoff Acres Mobile Home Park, it sounded like a firework.

 

Tim Shockley, who lives two trailers over, went outside to investigate.

“You don’t ever think it’s a gunshot, you know?” he said of residential neighborhoods.

As neighbors registered what they heard, Juneau police received a 911 call from inside C16. A 26-year-old woman, Tiffany Marie Albertson, reported a man had just been shot.

“I was right there,” she would later confide to a friend in a text.

The call, received at 10:32 p.m. Tuesday, spurred a series of events — an emergency response, a search for the suspected shooter, a SWAT team executing warrants — that lasted throughout the evening and into the morning. The police action ended at 2 p.m. Wednesday when the suspected shooter — 32-year-old Christopher Dean Strawn — was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder in the death of 30-year-old Brandon C. Cook.

“There was a murder, yeah,” Juneau Police Department Chief Bryce Johnson said, standing outside Strawn’s house early Wednesday morning, rubbing his blue JPD jacket to keep warm in the chilly wind.

Johnson was putting up yellow crime scene tape around Strawn’s home, a trailer in Glacier View Trailer Park across from Duck Creek Market, a few blocks away from where the shooting occurred. A JPD SWAT team had just contacted Strawn there and took him into police custody. It was a “peaceful surrender,” as Johnson put it.

“Everything OK?” a neighbor asked, walking up the road in his pajamas.

“Everything is safe and fine, yes,” Johnson said. “We’re just going to be here for a while.” Three detectives were searching Strawn’s home in khaki-colored protective suits. The suits prevent the officers’ DNA from contaminating the scene. JPD did not say whether they found the gun in question.

On Tuesday night, police officers arrived at Kodzoff Acres approximately three minutes after the 911 call came in. Capital City Fire/Rescue paramedics arrived less than a minute later.

But Cook died instantly and the suspect had already fled.

“Our role was brief,” CCFR Chief Richard Etheridge said. “A paramedic confirmed (the) death at the request of JPD, and they cleared the scene.”

Etheridge said he couldn’t comment on any injuries Cook sustained, saying that information has to be released from police. JPD did not release how many times Cook was shot or where he was hit.

“The scene was under their command, and they have an open investigation ongoing,” the fire chief said.

JPD spokeswoman Erann Kalwara said by phone, “That’s not information we’re going to be releasing, probably until after the autopsy.”

JPD is not speculating on what motivated the fatal shooting. The only ones who know are the shooter, and possibly the woman inside the trailer at the time of the shooting, Tiffany Albertson. Kalwara did not know if Albertson witnessed the shooting but confirmed a woman was inside the trailer when it happened.

Albertson, who was interviewed at the JPD station before the suspect was captured, declined to comment when reached Wednesday.

“Is there a way I can talk to you about it later?” she said over the phone. “I’m actually — (Cook’s) mom is getting ready to call me.”

Her employer called the Empire back a short while later.

“She’s really, really distraught and she’s just not prepared to talk to anybody about what went on,” Albertson’s coworker explained.

Albertson is likely to be a key witness in the case against Strawn. Friends of hers said she and Cook were best friends and he was like a brother to her.

“Rip my dear friend you are forever in our hearts i miss u so much,” she commented on Facebook on an Empire story. She has since set up a GoFundMe page to cover Cook’s funeral costs.

“Anyone who knew brandon knew he always put others needs before his own and always tried his best to help anyone who needed it. And now i ask that we give to his family as i know he would do the same,” Albertson wrote on the account. She ended the fundraising description by writing in all capital letters, “JUSTICE WILL BE SERVED.”

The Empire was not successful in reaching Cook’s family for comment. His Facebook page says he is from Wewoka, Oklahoma.

While JPD is not saying what led up to the shooting, Kalwara confirmed the suspected shooter and the victim were acquaintances and at one point, coworkers. According to their respective Facebook pages, they both worked at the Safeway in Juneau: Cook as an assistant manager and Strawn as a janitor.

When reached for comment, the Juneau Safeway referred the Empire to the corporate Safeway headquarters, then to the district manager, then to an administrative assistant, and eventually to a spokesperson in Washington who did not return phone messages by press time.

“You know Safeway, they don’t like you to even know that we exist,” one Safeway official joked wryly.

Employees at the Juneau location, meanwhile, were asked not to talk to the press.

“I believe we’re not able to make any comments about it right now,” one employee said by phone.

Albertson helped police quickly identify Strawn as the shooting suspect, but it took some time to find him. At one point, police thought he was at a residence in the 9900 block of Stephen Richards Memorial Drive, where he was known to hang out. Police had the place under surveillance throughout the night.

In the morning, JPD thought they saw a man matching the suspect’s description leaving the home to board a city bus headed to Nugget Mall. Police officers ended up searching several Capital Transit buses that happened to be at the mall at the same time, all to come up empty-handed.

There was also a public safety concern. JPD waited to execute search warrants at Strawn’s home until after children walking to school had left the neighborhood.

The SWAT team entered the home, Unit 35 on Duck Creek Loop, and took Strawn into custody at 8:31 a.m. Wednesday. He was taken to the JPD station on Alaway Avenue, formally arrested at 2 p.m. and then transported to Lemon Creek Correctional Center. JPD’s Kalwara did not say if he was interviewed by police while at the police station.

Court records online do not indicate when Strawn will appear in court for a first-felony appearance, but court rules require a defendant to appear in court within 48 hours of being booked at LCCC.

Charging court documents have not been filed in this case yet, but will likely be available today.

According to the court database, Strawn does not have a prior felony in the state of Alaska. He has a prior misdemeanor conviction for resisting a Juneau police officer in 2010, and a woman twice (once in 2013 and again in 2014) took out a domestic violence protective order against him. He has another misdemeanor conviction for violating one of those orders.

All the prosecutors with the Juneau District Attorney’s Office are in Anchorage for a conference this week. The judges, likewise, are at a conference in Alyeska. Magistrate judges are filling in for the Juneau District and Superior Court judges while they are away.

The prosecutors won’t be back until Friday evening, but can participate in court hearings by phone.

Assistant District Attorney Amy Paige told the Empire mid-day Wednesday — before JPD announced that an arrest in the case had been made — that they were not considering coming back to Juneau early.

“No, we’re not,” she said. “Because all that will happen, and this is just procedurally, the next step would be if he was charged, we would have an arraignment tomorrow and that would be the only progress over the next couple of days. So I don’t think it’s necessary.”

She noted the DA’s office has been consulting with JPD in this case as the investigation was ongoing.

At Kodzoff Acres on Wednesday, a sky blue S.U.V. drove past Trailer C16, which neighbors say Albertson and her fiancé just moved into two weeks ago. It was the trailer park’s site manager. She hadn’t yet heard the news.

“You mean in Juneau?” she asked incredulously, when told police believe a murder took place in the trailer. “Really?”

Juneau historically has seen low homicide rates. According to FBI statistics, the last recorded homicide in Juneau was 2010. Before that, there was one recorded homicide per year from 2007-2009. JPD reported two homicides to the FBI in 2006.

“Any violent crime I think is an anomaly,” the site manager said as she drove to work. “I think Juneau is a safe place.”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

 

 

Murder in the valley

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