A Shooting in Sunrise
By Marc Donadieu
Glacier City Gazette
Editor’s Note: Due to the violent, unresolved nature of the incident, with the shooter presumably at large, The Gazette is withholding the names of the people who first arrived on the scene for their safety.
Around 11 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 16, a woman (Witness One) and her boyfriend were riding west on their motorcycles near Milepost 7 of the Hope Hwy. After a day of riding in the region, they had decided to rent a Hope Airbnb at the last minute. At the same time, a man (Witness Two) and his two friends were headed east on the highway, heading home after enjoying a night of music. Neither party expected that a real life horror movie was about to unfold before their eyes as they encountered a man who had been shot in both legs and left on the side of the road.
Witness One was the first to come upon the scene. She was riding along behind her boyfriend on the twisty road when she saw something moving on the mountainside of the road.
“It was a man in tattered clothes waving his arms wildly and running,” she said, “but not normal running, like zombie walking around our motorcycles. He was trying to leap towards us, and we swerved out of the way. I realized as we were gaining some distance, he was covered in blood.”
She and her boyfriend had to make a quick decision about whether to help the victim or to protect themselves in an unsure situation. They pulled over about 50 feet before the victim and made a plan.
“We don’t know if he’s on drugs or if there are other people or whatever,” she said. “I stayed where I was and dialed 911. My boyfriend asked him to stop running because by now he has caught up to our motorcycles charging us full speed. ‘You’ve got to stop running around! What is going on?!’ He says, ‘I’ve been shot! Both of my legs have been shot.’”
He could not remember who shot him but kept saying Bella or Bess, she said. He was told to lie down and complied while she waited on hold with 911.
A truck approached on the mountainside of the road and she and her boyfriend waved, warning it to slow down. The three people that stopped saw the situation and began making tourniquets. Eventually 911 responded to her call. By that time, she and her boyfriend felt unsafe staying at the scene and left.
“We’re on motorcycles. We don’t know if there is somebody in the woods with a gun right now. The whole thing transpired after about 5-10 minutes of decision-making and back-and-forth and stuff. We were talking with helmets on too. We were both in that shock moment of trying to figure out what our moral obligation is here and then self-preservation and not even really knowing where we were at.”
She said the victim was determined to get someone to stop and help him but it was not clear where the shooting had taken place.
“His clothes were pretty tattered, and he didn’t have any teeth. I don’t remember if he had any shoes or not. There is housing and camps there. For his injuries, he was running and making quite some distance, so he really could have come from anywhere. I have no idea what the situation was. It’s not every day you encounter a zombie on your motorcycle ride to Hope.”
Witness Two and his friends left Hope around 10:30 p.m. As they rounded a curve, they could see a motorcycle stopped in their lane. They stopped, put the high beams on, and saw the bloodied man lying beside the road.
“My friend’s dad was in town for the night and we wanted to show him a good time in Alaska and we come across a guy that got shot in both knees. A fun night turned into finding a body at the side of the road,” he said.
“He had a bullet below each knee, bullet hole entry and exit blown out. He was bleeding pretty badly. I went back to the truck and told my friend to call 911. I got belts and put them above the wounds. It cut off most of the circulation. The bleeding mostly stopped. It’s all pretty crazy.”
After the motorcycles left, Witness Two’s friend moved the truck to a more visible location, flashing the lights to warn approaching vehicles.
“The guy was in and out,” Witness Two said. “He was clearly high. I asked him what happened. He said, ‘I don’t know. I just got out of jail, and I probably deserved it.’ I kept him awake and waited for the paramedics to show up. I had my knee behind his head to keep him propped up. He had no idea [who shot him]. He said he was on the highway, and his friends turned off to smoke a bowl. That’s all he remembered.”
Shortly after Witness Two arrived, a man emerged from his driveway, saying he’d heard two gunshots, grabbed his shotgun and shot in the air. Witness Two asked the man to stay nearby with his gun as they waited about for Hope Sunrise Emergency Services (HSES) to arrive. Then two military guys arrived about 20 minutes after the belts were tightly applied. New tourniquets were placed just below the belts, which remained on.
“They had a full first aid kit and real tourniquets,” Witness Two said. “They did the wrap then used a marker to put the date and time on [the victim’s] forehead.”
HSES Emergency Trauma Tech (ETT) Travis Peterson and EMT 1 Calvin Walton arrived on the scene shortly after. Then the victim was taken to Hope Airport to be transported via LifeMed flight to Anchorage, Witness Two began to emerge from the shock of the incident and realized he needed to tend to himself.
“I had blood all over my hands up to my elbows,” he said. “I went back to Creekbend because I remembered that they had a hand wash station outside. I scrubbed my hands until the station ran out of soap and water.”
He then returned to the scene for questioning with AST.
“I don’t remember what [the victim’s] face looked like,” he said, “but I remember the exit wounds. His name was Sam. He said he was with two males and a female in a car before all of this happened. He said, ‘My friends left me.’”
During questioning, Witness Two received disturbing news by a trooper.
“It was heroin. The police let me know. They said, ‘Just so you know, this guy admitted on the helicopter that he was high on heroin. You are going to want to get checked out.’ I had a call yesterday that said I was good to go for this blood test. I have another one in a month and another one in three months.”
Glacier City Gazette spoke with HSES Fire Chief Brendan McGuire to learn about his department’s response to the incident.
“The troopers told us that there was no concern about the shooter remaining in the area.”
McGuire said the community response to the incident showed residents are prepared and responsive.
“There was understandably a lot of concern, especially out there in Sunrise where the incident happened,” McGuire said. “The community response was in line with what I would expect. People would secure their homes and their property, making sure they are on the lookout.”
At press time, AST has not responded to requests for comment. AST requests anyone with information to contact (907) 262-4453.