Fairbanks Police say Monday morning shooter was prepared for armed confrontation

Fairbanks Police Department commander’s Dodge Charger. (Flickr Creative Commons photo by Steven H. Robinson)

Fairbanks Police have released details about an officer involved shooting in the city Monday. Police identified the man killed in a shootout with 4 FPD officers, as 21-year-old Matthew Colton Stover of Northway. During a press conference Tuesday, Chief Eric Jewkes explained that officers responded to a snow dump next to Fairbanks Correctional Center around 4 a.m. Monday, after receiving reports of a masked man with a rifle.

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“Two officers approached in their vehicles, stopping a considerable distance away” Jewkes said. “They activated their lights and made contact with the suspect over the PA. As soon as that PA announcement started, the suspect exited the vehicle, immediately turned, started running towards the officers, raised an AR-style rifle and began firing as he ran towards the patrol cars.”

Chief Jewkes said the officers were not injured, and returned fire, killing Stover. Jewkes says Stover was armed with an assault rifle and a 9mm pistol, and was prepared for confrontation.

“He had numerous loaded magazines both on him and in his vehicle, both for the rifle and the handgun, which counted to about 400 rounds of ammunition,” Jewkes said. “He also was wearing body armor that covered a significant part of his body. We’re still looking into exactly how much of his body was covered by that body armor, but it did include a ballistic face mask.”

Chief Jewkes said an armored Alaska State Trooper vehicle and a robot were used to approach Stover’s body and his truck.

“He had modified his vehicle to conceal both its make and to change its original appearance,” Jewkes said. “They also noticed a large bag sitting beside the vehicle and noticed a fuel-type smell or some type of accelerant. So given all the preparations that he made, the smell and the things that went with that, there were some concerns about explosive materials — some other kind of secondary hazard to the officers.”

Jewkes said an Army explosive ordinance detection team from Ft. Wainwright was called in, but no explosives were found. An unmanned aerial vehicle from the University of Alaska Fairbanks was used to survey and map the shooting scene.

A nearby medical center, movie theatre and other businesses were evacuated or locked down during the hours long clearing and processing of the scene. Chief Jewkes said police have had no prior dealings with Stover, and he would not speculate on his motivation.

“What I can say is after reviewing the information we have so far, I stand here very proud of the officers that were involved,” Jewkes said. “The way they conducted themselves, the way they confronted and armed gunman who had spent considerable time preparing for an armed confrontation. I have full appreciation for the significance of Mr. Stover and his loss of life, and my sympathy goes out to his family. He’s a person, he has a family and I sympathize with what they must be going through.”

Stover’s hometown of Northway is located about 50 miles south of Tok on the Alaska Highway. The population was 71 people in the 2010 census.

The four FPD officers involved in the shooting are on administrative leave, and their names will be released after 72 hours. It was the second officer involved shooting in Fairbanks in a month.