By Tommy Wells
Seward Phoenix LOG 

Shooting details can't be rushed

 

October 12, 2017 | View PDF



Seward City Attorney Will Earnhart urged residents to be patient and allow the investigation into the recent police shooting that claimed the life of a 41-year-old Chugiak man on Oct. 1 in the Safeway parking lot to run its course.

“This has been an awful situation for everyone involved,” said Earnhart. “I know we live in an age where many things are instantaneous, are on phones and on video, and that people form opinions on Twitter immediately. The investigation is with the Alaska State Troopers and they’re going to do a thorough job.”

A traffic stop in Seward last Sunday ended with the shooting death of a Micah McComas, a passenger in a vehicle that had stopped for speeding. According to published reports, the passenger in the vehicle McComas, who was driving, obeyed requests from a Seward Police Department officer and that he was handcuffed prior to being shot.

McComas died of his injuries. The officer, who was later identified as Matthew “Eddie” Armstrong, suffered “non life-threatening” injuries in the incident, which occurred at 1:47 a.m.

According to reports from the Alaska Dispatch News, McComas and a female friend, Amy Campbell, were driving near Safeway when they were stopped for speeding. After pulling into the parking lot, it was determined that McComas didn’t have a driver’s license and was removed from the vehicle. Campbell, in the report, said she saw him in handcuffs. After being questioned, Campbell said she gave the officer permission to search the vehicle and removed herself from the vehicle.

At that point, Campbell said she noticed the officer’s car began to roll.

“And the cop car started to move. And he’s like ‘hey, hey, hey, hey,’ “ Campbell said, noting Armstrong began running to his vehicle.

“A minute to a minute and a half later I hear ‘boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,’ I hear five shots, all in a row,” Campbell said, noting she immediately got on the ground in front of her car. When she got up, she indicated that she remembered seeing McComas lying on the ground, no longer in handcuffs, and the officer lying beside him. An ambulance arrived later for McComas, who was still alive.

According to data provided by the Alaska State Troopers on Tuesday afternoon, Armstrong initiated the traffic stop at approximately 1:05 a.m. for a speeding violation. After the stop, however, the incident turned into a drug investigation. According to information given to the Troopers by SPD officials, McComas was handcuffed and placed in the back of Armstrong’s vehicle.

At approximately 1:47 a.m., while Armstrong was continuing his investigation, McComas reportedly managed to get in the front seat of the police vehicle and attempted to drive away. Armstrong attempted to stop McComas and discharged his firearm, which resulted in the subject sustaining fatal gunshot wounds. An autopsy confirmed that McComas died as a result of gunshot wounds.

According to court records, McComas was awaiting trial on charges of possession of a firearm by a felon and a misdemeanor drug offense.

A 13-year law enforcement veteran, Armstrong’s name was not immediately released following the incident. Per Seward Police Department guidelines, officers’ names are not released for 72 hours after a shooting incident.

“There are two people’s lives that were immediately changed at that point,” said Earnhart. “The three days allows for the officer to absorb what has happened, and to tell his family that kind of things so their children isn’t on a school ground and hears what their dad did. It allows time for the officer to protect themselves emotionally, as well as protect their family.”

Earnhart assured residents that a thorough investigation of the incident will happen, even though it may appear nothing is being done publicly.

“The investigation is with the State Troopers and they’re going to do a thorough job.” he said. “They’re not going to be releasing things point-by-point because they need to collect information, collect the evidence, speak to witnesses and analyze everything before it gets churned out in the public. When they’re done, some things will go public and we’ll know the real story.”

“It’s not something that can be rushed along with every little piece coming out as soon as it is available for the public to investigate on its own,” he added. “The Troopers will get to the bottom of exactly what happened to protect everyone’s interest. I know it is frustrating, especially in this age when we get things immediately, but these things take time and, in time, everything will come out.”

According to AST Public Information Officer Megan Peters, the investigation into this incident is continuing and anyone with information regarding this incident should contact investigators with the General Investigation Unit at 907-262-4453. At the conclusion of this investigation, the case will be turned over to the Alaska Department of Law, Office of Special Prosecutions to determine if the use of force was legally justified under Alaska law.

McComas’ family has retained an attorney, said his sister, Krista Smith, who lives in South Carolina.

 

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