ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage police officer was ambushed without provocation by unknown gunmen early Saturday as he sat in his patrol car working on an apparently unrelated assault case, police said, and city officials vowed to catch those responsible.
"We are shocked, we are outraged, we are angered," Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan said at an afternoon press briefing. "This officer was doing what he does every day and that is keeping the community safe. When somebody attacks a police officer, they're attacking our entire community."
The officer, who is expected to recover, was parked in his marked cruiser in a residential neighborhood near downtown after taking a domestic violence report on an incident that had occurred in the past. Anchorage patrol officers generally work alone.
Several men pulled up next to the driver's side in a dark-colored sedan shortly before 2 a.m. and the front passenger fired some rounds. The officer was struck possibly five times in both arms and his torso, said Lt. Dave Koch.
Police said none of the men in the car said anything and their motive is unknown. But police do not believe the officer was a target chosen at random.
"He was sitting in a police car, he was in a police uniform. He was shot because he was a police officer," Koch said. "There's nothing random about it."
Despite his wounds, the officer was able to radio in a description of the fleeing vehicle, which is believed to be a late 1980s to mid 1990s model, probably a Chevrolet. A neighbor called 911 as well. Koch said police also are examining video, but would not elaborate.
The officer underwent surgery and was listed in stable condition, Koch said. The officer's name is not being immediately released because his wife has been in the hospital with him and has not yet had time discuss the shooting with their children, Koch said.
Police say the officer has been with the department for more than eight years.
Lt. Dave Parker said the incident was very similar to an Oct. 31 ambush on a parked patrol car in Seattle in which Officer Timothy Brenton was killed and another officer wounded. Christopher Monfort has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder and attempted murder in that case.
The Seattle attack was the first of three on police officers in Seattle and nearby Pierce County last year that left six officers dead, including four gunned down in late November as they were doing paperwork in a coffee shop near Tacoma.
Until the assailant in Saturday's Anchorage shooting is caught there is no way to determine whether it was a copy of the Washington attacks, Parker said.
"But it's sure interesting that we've had so many recently," he said.
Although the Anchorage assailants are unknown, police are conducting many interviews, including calls to informants. They have located two possible suspects, who have since been eliminated.