ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The search for a suspect who allegedly kidnapped a South Anchorage teen at gunpoint is no longer "active" but police say they're still keeping an eye out for the man. Police say he is dangerous and believe he likely hitchhiked out of the area officers were searching on Friday.
It was midmorning Friday when 18-year-old Devin Welsh of South Anchorage saw a suspect rummaging through his grandmother's backyard on Lake Otis Parkway.
Welsh says that when he confronted the man, he pulled a gun -- and ordered Welsh into his pickup truck.
According to Anchorage police, the two had driven some distance out on the Seward Highway when the gunman ordered Welsh to stop the pickup, in the vicinity of Turnagain Pass.
That's when the gunman took the keys out of the ignition and got out of the pick-up, saying he had to relieve himself by the side of the road. Then, he walked off into the woods.
Devin says that "God must have been looking out for me" because, by chance, he had been in the process of making a second set of keys to the truck for his grandmother. He happened to have that second set with him, so he used them to simply drive off, leaving the gunman behind.
"That was very fortunate -- that he had a key hidden away," says APD spokesman Lt. Dave Parker. "And it's probably not a bad idea to have an extra key, though this kind of thing is such a rare event that this is the first time we've seen anything like this in recent history."
After Welsh left the scene, he apparently had difficulty with his cellphone signal in such a remote area, but he found he was able to text-message his family about what had just happened.
They called police, who promptly shut-down a 3.5-mile-section of the Seward while they conducted a manhunt.
The shutdown, which lasted somewhere around three hours, produced no arrests but backed up traffic for hours.
While police searched for the man using helicopters, tracking dogs and officers armed with assault rifles, one woman reported seeing a man with a shaved head walking out of the woods.
Police showed her a photo of a man who had recently escaped from a halfway house. She told officers the photo was a dead ringer for the man she had just seen.
While the focus of the search shifted, to try to find the man, police went to work showing the photo to Welsh, the teen who had been carjacked -- but he said it wasn't the man who had held a gun on him.
After a few hours, officers suspended the search. The suspect, described as a man in his forties with a shaved head and a red and black tattoo on his shoulder, remains on the loose.
Parker confirms that two other witnesses corroborated parts of Welsh's story. At this point, Parker says police are searching for two different suspects in two unrelated cases.