Records: Alaska’s independent U.S. Senate candidate shot bear after “bloodcurdling scream”

U.S. Senate candidate Al Gross with a bear killed on Oct. 19, 1995 in Sweetheart Flats, south of Juneau. (Al Gross campaign)

On the morning of Oct. 19, 1995, Jeff Jones heard a “bloodcurdling scream,” then “bear.”

Jones looked over to see a brown bear 5 to 10 feet from his duck hunting partner, current U.S. Senate hopeful Al Gross, an independent who has secured the Alaska Democratic Party’s nomination.

In a narrative report to the Alaska Department of Public Safety, released through a public records request Tuesday, Jones wrote that he grabbed his gun as he and Gross stepped back into a pond while hunting at Sweetheart Flats south of Juneau.

The bear stood up on its hind legs, then came down on all fours and proceeded toward Gross, according to the report. Jones fired a shot, then Gross did the same. Then, both men shot again, according to the report. Three of the four shots hit the bear.

“I felt my partners life was in immediate danger,” Jones wrote in the report.

According to the state documents, the men took the hide and the head of the bear, and they dragged the rest of its carcass out to sea so it wouldn’t attract other bears in the area. The Alaska Department of Public Safety issued a warning to Jones for failing to salvage the bear’s claws.

The incident has been the topic of much publicity and speculation over the past month. The documents released this week by the Department of Public Safety and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game give a detailed account of what happened, as reported by Jones and Gross two days later.

The shooting of the bear became a frequent talking point in Gross’ challenge to Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, and is mentioned in multiple campaign ads. Several media outlets, including the Anchorage Daily News, requested documentation of the event with DPS and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

One of the requesters was a conservative opposition research firm. Matt Shuckerow, Sullivan’s campaign manager, said the campaign did not hire the research firm.

This week, the Gross campaign released a sparsely detailed report from DPS to Newsweek, which ran an article Monday titled “Republicans Really Want to Know if This Senate Candidate Actually Killed A Grizzly Bear.

The document released by the campaign said Jones and Gross shot a bear in defense of life or property, but included no narrative.

On Tuesday, DPS released Jones’ narrative report, and a summary from responding trooper E.C. Lorentz.

Gross’ campaign spokeswoman, Julia Savel, said the opposition is focusing on the bear incident, rather than the issues.

“Al killed the bear in self-defense, reported the incident and the case was closed,” Savel said.