The Alaska Department of Public Safety has released additional information in the shooting of the suspected DUI driver on the Seward Meridian Highway that occurred on Sunday night.
Trooper dispatch reports that a caller reported a REDDI driver to the Mat-Com Dispatch Center at 8:37 pm on Sunday night and told the center that a white Chevy pickup with two intoxicated males had pulled into a parking lot at the intersection of the Parks Highway and the Palmer-Wasilla Highway. The caller also collected and relayed the license plate of the vehicle to the dispatch.
Mat-Com dispatch immediately broadcasted the location of the suspect vehicle to Wasilla police and to Alaska State Troopers. At 8:44 pm, a trooper patrolling nearby responded to the location and found the white pickup truck parked in the Fred Meyers parking lot at 1501 East Parks Highway.
The trooper pulled up behind the parked pickup and proceeded to contact the occupants of the vehicle. He approached the pickup and knocked on the side of the vehicle, at which time the vehicle drove away. When it did so, the pickup circled several small businesses in the area the pulled on to the Parks Highway, heading south in the northbound lanes before driving over the meridian into the southbound lanes of the highway.
The vehicle, driven by a person later identified as 52-year-old Gordon E. Samel of Wasilla, then turned onto South Hermon Road and then onto East Whispering Woods Drive. Samel continued on the road until he reached the intersection on the Seward Meridian Highway and turned the vehicle completely around. He was encircled by two marked Alaska State Trooper patrol vehicles and a marked Wasilla Police Department Patrol vehicle.
As a trooper and a Wasilla Police officer exited their vehicles and approached the suspect’s vehicle on foot, Samel put his truck into reverse and began backing up directly towards the Wasilla officer. As he did so, one trooper and one Wasilla Police officer drew their handguns and fired on the vehicle, shooting and killing Samel, the driver of the pickup. Samel died at the scene. Autopsy revealed that he died from bullet wounds.
The passenger in the vehicle, an adult male, not identified as he has had no charges leveled at him, suffered injuries to his arm. He was treated for his wound and released.
The investigation into this event continues. The names of the State Trooper and Police Officer will be released on Wednesday evening. At the conclusion of the investigation, the report will be provided to the Department of Law, Office of Special Prosecutions, for determination as to the whether the use of deadly force by the Alaska State Trooper and the Wasilla Police Officer was legally justified.
Samel’s next of kin were notified.
On 3/12/14 the Alaska State Troopers released the names of the Alaska State Trooper and the Wasilla Police Department Officer who discharged their handguns on 3/9/14 on Seward Meridian Parkway and East Whispering Woods Drive.
They are identified as: Trooper Daron A. Cooper, a six year veteran of the Alaska State Troopers currently assigned as a K-9 handler in the Palmer Patrol Unit and Officer Brandon L. Gray, a two year employee of the Wasilla Police Department currently assigned to the Patrol Unit.