FAIRBANKS - A man who was fatally shot by a North Pole police officer was linked to an attempt last year to break a friend out of Fairbanks Correctional Center by knocking down the prison wall with a front-end loader, authorities said.
Hank Thomas Walker, who was shot Sunday for reportedly trying to ram the officer with a four-wheeler, was scheduled to go on trial this month on a charge of vehicle theft for his role in stealing the front-end loader used in the attempted prison break, according to assistant district attorney Jason Gazewood.
Walker, 49, was shot and killed shortly after 3:30 a.m. Sunday after he tried to run over the officer in a residential driveway on the outskirts of North Pole, police said. It was the second time the officer confronted Walker that morning.
Police identified the officer Wednesday as Bill Bellant, 32, who joined the force six years ago. As required by department policy, Bellant is on a three-day paid administration leave. He is scheduled to return to work on Friday, said Sgt. Jon Miller.
The confrontation is the first fatal shooting involving an officer in the 52-year history of the North Pole Police Department, Miller said.
Alaska State Troopers are investigating the shooting.
The trooper investigation should be done by the end of this week, but it will be several weeks before autopsy and toxicology results will be available, said trooper John Williamson. Once complete, the trooper report will go to the state Office of Special Prosecutions, which handles all police-related shootings, he said.
Walker was indicted in connection with the attempted jail break in November, in which several people plotted to free Randy D. Watson, 29, by stealing a front-end loader, which failed to break down the wall of the jail.
Four of the suspects who played larger roles have entered pleas.
North Pole police said Bellant encountered Walker after he saw him speeding on the all terrain vehicle and driving erratically in the middle of Old Richardson Highway. When the officer caught up with the four-wheeler, Walker drove toward the officer, struck him with the vehicle and speed away, according to the police.
Bellant followed Walker to the residential driveway. Police said the officer then shot Walker because he was trying to run over him with the four-wheeler.