ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska State Troopers identified the two troopers and Kotzebue police officer Wednesday involved in a Sunday exchange of gunfire with a man who committed suicide during a subsequent standoff.
A Wednesday AST dispatch says troopers Gordon Young and Christopher Bitz of the Kotzebue post, along with Kotzebue police Sgt. Norman Hughes, were approaching a pickup truck that had struck a guardrail on Ted Stevens Way near the Kotzebue airport shortly after 9:15 a.m. The driver, 50-year-old Arvid Nelson Jr., had reportedly brandished a handgun at a motorist who had driven by Nelson’s vehicle.
Nelson immediately opened fire on the three men, who returned fire and are believed to have wounded him. Bitz was medevaced to Anchorage for treatment of a gunshot wound and was in stable condition Wednesday, while Young was treated and released at the Kotzebue clinic for injuries from either shrapnel or a round.
Troopers from the Southcentral Special Emergency Response Team arrived in Kotzebue at 2 p.m. and tried to negotiate with Nelson, but received no response. Less-lethal munitions fired at the vehicle, including beanbag rounds to break the vehicle’s windows and pepper-spray rounds intended to make Nelson get out safely, also had no effect.
When troopers approached the pickup truck at 6 p.m., Nelson was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. The Kotzebue airport was closed to all but emergency traffic during the standoff, and the scene was cordoned off for the public’s safety.
Personnel from the Alaska Bureau of Investigation arrived Monday to examine the scene; Nelson’s body has undergone an autopsy at the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage, and an investigation of the incident is continuing.
Troopers ask any members of the public who have photos or videos from any portion of the incident to call 907-269-5611 about sharing them with investigators. If calling after business hours, please leave name and contact information.